A CAMPAIGN to end a national youth skills crisis is highlighting the success of an Eastcote woman who overcame cancer to break the cycle of unemployment.
Nicola Staff, 24, was jobless on and off for four years while facing mental health issues as well as cancer, before getting help from youth charity The Prince’s Trust.
She now works as a commis chef at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London and hopes her story can inspire other young people.
“My previous ill health meant that I’d never been able to hold down a job for very long,” said Nicola.
“Every time I lost a job, I felt very isolated. It seemed like everyone else my age was getting on with their lives and I just couldn’t get out of the rut I was in.”
Demoralised, Nicola sought help from her family, but it was not until she started researching what various charities do that she felt there was any guidance for people in her position.
“By this point I was desperate for help,” she said. “I had lost my confidence, self-esteem and trust in people.”
The Prince’s Trust first directed Nicola to its Fairbridge personal development scheme, which aims to empower young people and boost their confidence.
After excelling on the course, she was invited to join another of its programmes, Get into Hospitality, with Marriott.
“For the first time in my life, I felt safe and accepted by my workplace, which makes me so happy,” said Nicola.
She has been given a mentor, for extra support, and says the company has given her working hours that remain flexible, to help manage her health.
“I’d definitely recommend the Get into Hospitality programme to other young people,” she added. “The support I received was phenomenal because it changed my life.
“I’ve gone from having no job and little prospects to working for an international company in a prestigious hotel within a great team.”
Research carried out by The Prince’s Trust and HSBC suggests that 70 per cent of UK business leaders believe the recruitment of young people into the workforce is vital to avert a skills crisis.
And, with almost a quarter of London organisations reporting skills shortages at entry level, the charity is calling on employers to invest in vocational training like the schemes Nicola benefited from.
Dermot Finch, regional director of the The Prince’s Trust in London, said: “It is deeply concerning that employers are struggling to fill vacancies when we have thousands of unemployed young people who are desperate for work.
“We are urging businesses to take action now, to up-skill the workforce of the future and prevent the bubbling skills crisis from boiling over.”
The trust aims to help 58,000 unemployed young people this year.