Chris Fox believes that coming to Think Employment was the best decision he’s ever made.
After spending the best part of a year homeless, Chris’ self-esteem was at an all-time low before his work coach suggested going for a meeting at Think Employment.
Almost a year on, and Chris has completely turned his life around, by earning six Level 2 qualifications, gaining work experience supporting adult learners and, most importantly, improving confidence in himself.
We spoke to Chris recently about his learning experience at Think Employment and his hopes for the future.
Chris, when did you first hear about Think Employment?
I was at the jobcentre enquiring about a CSCS Card when my advisor recommended Think Employment. She arranged for me to go and speak to Carla (Kenworthy) about how you might be able to help. Carla explained about everything very well and I felt confident I was making the right choice.
It’s great to hear that you felt like you’d made the right choice for you. Did you feel comfortable in our learning centre?
Yeah I was made to feel very welcome, by Andy, Meghan and Tom right away and they were very supportive in helping me through my Maths qualifications initially, then English and finally IT. I managed to get Level 1 and 2 qualifications in all of them. I actually thoroughly enjoyed doing them and during the process I gained a lot of self-confidence.
Where do you think that confidence in yourself came from?
I think that was a combination of the support I received by the Tutors and also my own achievements. Prior to coming to Think Employment, I was homeless for about a year and, naturally, my self-esteem was rock bottom. But since I completed my qualifications, I’ve found a new strength that I didn’t think I had.
So, do you feel as though Think Employment played a part in helping you get off the streets?
Yes, I believe so. Mainly for the new skills I achieved and the confidence that gave me. But another thing being at Think Employment allowed me to do is meet new people. For me, that’s been very important because I am a people person and always try and have a smile on my face. My time with Think Employment was brilliant and I would recommend it to anyone.
Did you have any qualifications before you came to us?
I left school in 1983 and so the qualifications I gained don’t count for anything anymore. Even though I did achieve some CSEs back then, I knew I needed to update my CV. Thanks to the English, Maths, IT, Customer Service and Equality & Diversity qualifications I’ve gained, my CV is now looking pretty good!
After you finished learning with us, you stayed on as a volunteer. What does your day-to-day entail?
If I’m able to, I help the students with the English, Maths and IT learning. If I’m not able to help, I ask more qualified people like Andy, Meghan and Tom to support them. I also spend six hours a week cleaning the centre in Stockport, which I thoroughly enjoy. Before, I didn’t have much motivation to even get up in the morning, but now I have it again because I love coming to Think Employment, meeting the students and working alongside the Tutors. It really is like a big family here.
Did it feel a bit like a family when you received a surprise birthday cake for your 50th? That must have been a special moment for you?
Oh yes I was very humbled. I mean, I didn’t shed a tear but I was very close! I thought that was absolutely tremendous of everyone.
Now you’ve earned yourself new qualifications, improved your self-confidence and gained experience as a volunteer with us, is the goal to find full-time work?
Yes, I’d love to do a job where I can support people. Last year, Think Employment sent me to a learning centre in Manchester called Tea and Tech. The sessions were to provide help and support to the over 55’s who wanted to know how to use their electronic devices – mainly mobiles phones and ipads. There was a lady at the session called Joy and she wanted to know how she could use her phone to get in touch with her son living in Rome, so I helped her to download Whatsapp onto her mobile phone. As soon as she was able to see his face during a video call, the tears began to roll down her cheeks. After she’d finished her conversation, she gave me a cuddle and I remember thinking ‘that’s what it’s all about’.
That’s absolutely brilliant to hear, Chris. It sounds like you’ve come a long way since you first enquired about a CSCS Card with us last year…
Absolutely. If I was looking at the person I was then, in the rut I was in, and comparing that with the achievements I’ve earned myself and progress I’ve made, I’d say ‘wow – good call Chris, it’s the best thing you’ve ever done, mate’.