19 May, 2016

Triumph over adversity

Our four-week Make Your Mark programme is designed in partnership with The Prince’s Trust to give young people the skills and confidence to find work. It provides hands-on experience in a real M&S job, skills training to improve employability, and the support of a coach and buddy. It may even lead to a permanent job with M&S – like it did for Craig.

Craig is a Customer Assistant at our Coleraine store in Northern Ireland who joined the programme last year. He made such an impression on his colleagues with his fantastic attitude to work and his dedication to M&S that, twelve months later, he was nominated for The Prince’s Trust Rising Star award. It was a nomination that came as a total shock to Craig.
“I had no idea I was going to be nominated,” he says. “It was my buddy who put me forward and I was really surprised. I went to the regional awards in Dublin and then, as a finalist, to London for the national ceremony.”

Craig didn’t win overall, but just getting a nomination was an incredible achievement. The award recognises young people who are in sustainable employment despite having faced personal obstacles – and Craig had been dealt the unkindest of hands in his early life.

He was eight when he saw his mum die, 13 when he left school and sought comfort in alcohol and 20 when he became the father of a daughter – Zara, named in memory of his mum. He temped in a bar, but soon that closed down. Other applications for work failed, his grandmother died and, agoraphobic, he was incapable of leaving his house for three years.

The crunch came when Zara asked for an ice-cream and Craig couldn’t afford to buy her one. “I just felt so useless and ashamed. Seeing her face crumble made me realise I had to turn my life around, for her sake and mine,” he recalls.

Craig needed a stepping-stone and found one when his local Jobs & Benefits Office recommended Make Your Mark. He learned many transferable skills on the programme, and his confidence and self-esteem flourished. Craig was quickly taken on full time and, as well as receiving The Prince’s Trust nomination, he has recently been named Employee of the Month.
“M&S and The Prince’s Trust have given me a second chance in life. That second chance has given me and my family hope. Look at me now – I’ve got a job I love and a new home. Who would have believed it?”

Now Craig plans to work his way up in M&S and give his family and even happier and healthier life. For the first time since his mum died 17 years ago, Craig says he’s excited about his future:

“I’ve got lots of plans about where I want to go. I’m definitely looking to climb the ladder as I truly believe that my future is with M&S. Not only did they give me the break I needed, they believed in me enough to keep me on.” 


This image originated on the Princes Trust website.

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