Now I'm discovering skills I never knew I had

Panida Muse - Gingerbread

After four years out of work, single mum Panida Muse was running seriously low on confidence. Unable to find shift patterns that allowed her to look after her three kids, the 34-year-old had all but lost hope.

But then, thanks to Gingerbread, along came Marks & Start. And after catching our eye during her work placement near Liverpool, we couldn’t wait to offer her a full-time Food job at our pioneering Cheshire Oaks store.

Panida says: “From the start it was really good to be using my brain again. When you’ve been at home for a while with your kids, it’s a relief to have adult company and conversation again.

“I absolutely loved my placement – I learned loads, in lots of areas, and everyone there was brilliant. And now I’ve got my ideal job because I’m a bit of a foodie and I love interacting with my customers. I like the M&S way of thinking: nothing’s too much trouble.

“My shifts are really good – 7am to 12pm – and the kids can see how much happier I am now I’m working. I feel 100 times more confident because I realise now I’m just as good as anyone else.”

Find out how the Marks & Start programme supports single parents.

Louise Parkin – Remploy

Obsessive-compulsive disorder remains one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted disabilities of all. For Louise Parkin it meant nine years out of work, rock-bottom confidence, and no obvious prospects for the future.

These days the 33-year-old is enjoying a remarkable turnaround. After impressing us immediately during her Marks & Start work placement in Sheffield – organised through Remploy – she took on a full-time Customer Assistant role.

Louise says: “After getting my OCD under control with medicine, I knew the next step was finding a job. I’d been out of the market so long that it was tough to get myself in the right frame of mind. And then this came along.

“I knew it was an ideal opportunity, and everyone was unendingly patient and supportive. The placement went really well and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to get offered a full-time role. It was amazing to know people believed in me.

“I’d say the main benefits of having a job are being self-reliant and independent. It’s a tremendous feeling – and it means I can plan for the future. Because I’ve got one now.”

Find out how the Marks & Start programme supports people with disabilities.

Cameron Ingles – The Prince’s Trust

Cameron Ingles has suffered from a serious stammer all his life, and it gets a lot worse in high-pressure situations such as job interviews. After years of struggling to find a permanent post, the 25-year-old just couldn’t see a way forward.

Marks & Start – which he discovered through the Prince’s Trust – has given him just the boost he needed. Following a successful placement in Edinburgh he’s now working a temporary contract with us, and building for an exciting future.

Joseph Trodden, Get into Programme Executive from the Prince’s Trust says: “The course helped Cameron enormously. It increased his confidence and motivation by giving him the opportunity he needed. He learned retail skills which prepared him for his work placement. In particular the work experience and the opportunity to prove himself to an employer was something that was really useful and so important to him.”

Find out how the Marks & Start programme supports young people.

Kelly Mahon – Business in the Community

It’s been a tough start for Kelly Mahon. The 19-year-old spent most of her childhood in the Irish care system, went through serious depression, and dropped out of school without qualifications.

But ever since Business in the Community suggested our Marks & Start programme, she’s found confidence, commitment and enthusiasm she never knew she had – and now she’s got her eyes firmly fixed on the future.

Kelly says: “I’d never had professional experience before, and I was terrified. I used to apply for jobs but would ignore the phone if it rang because I was too scared of interviews. I just thought I wasn’t good enough and it felt like I’d never work.

“But M&S have been brilliant. My buddy was a huge help and everyone treated me like one of the team. They even extended my placement by three days so I could finish the promotion and display area I’d been working on. I loved the responsibility.

“Now I’m actively looking for work in the retail sector, and I’m going to stick at it thanks to this new motivation and belief. I’m actually excited about my future.”

Find out how the Marks & Start programme supports efforts to reduce homelessness.