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5 live Drive: Unemployment Blogs - March

Jo Meek | 15:28 UK time, Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Drive is following the fortunes of a group of young jobseekers who come from areas hit hardest by the economic downturn. Each of them is facing different barriers to finding work, but all are determined to find ways to change their lives for the better.

This month the group discuss meeting their mentors for the first time and their next steps.

Craig Atherton

My mentor Richard Joseph said on the phone that London is the place to be for creative work. I guess I was being stubborn and thinking Manchester is where I belong, but I’ve thought long and hard about moving away and I am certainly willing to move to wherever the work is. The live broadcast went so fast, and I was itching to carry on chatting with Richard, my mentor.

Craig and Richard

I have managed to get some work experience through NOISEfestival.com which has been amazing for my confidence. In between my work experience I have been going through my portfolio of work; it’s been a while since I have had an interview for a design position so I needed to update things. I found it hard printing my posters off due to lack of money.

The journey down to London was tense, the train decided to stop at Crewe for around 20 minutes; I did not want to show up late! My train arrived at Euston at 2:50pm so I power-walked straight to the underground, forgetting how manic the underground is. The last time I was in London was for my graduation on Brick Lane, almost 2 years ago. I even had to ask for assistance buying a ticket for the tube, everything seemed foreign to me which I would normally thrive on but time was against me. I got off at Oxford Circus remembering how much I hate Oxford Street.

Eventually finding my destination by using my iPhone I met Jo from Wise Buddah and Vic from NOISEfestival.com. We sat down and had a drink and went over some questions I had for Richard.

I was nervous but calm about meeting Rich. I was more apprehensive about what he had to say about my folio of work and CV. What if I had no talent at all and he said to give up my ambition of being a designer? Had I wasted 29 years of my life chasing a dream that would never happen?

Before I knew it we were outside his studio. They buzzed us straight in. I spent a few minutes looking round at all of the amazing products he had designed and put into production. Rich came out of a room and walked over with a huge smile. I shook his hand and introduced myself; I instantly felt at ease.

After I came out the meeting I felt confident and more determined than ever that I would make it within the design industry. I think it’s really easy to lose all your confidence in your abilities when you have been out of work for a long time. I can’t even get a job as a cleaner so who would give me a job as a designer?

I know I have a lot of hard work ahead but I’m willing to do what it takes to get to where I want to be. Richard advised me to revamp my CV as it didn’t really say much about myself as a person or as a designer. He also suggested working on my folio whenever possible. Once I have my CV up to scratch he suggested meeting up with an agency that he deals with often. He said I would be able to chat about what direction I want to take with the design industry and then make a plan to target certain places for work.

My dream is to have my own design company but from chatting with Richard I’ve realised I need to take a job that I might not necessarily want - the fact that I will be around other like minded people will only take me into directions I’ve never thought of before.

I couldn’t put a price on having a mentor and even the help I’ve received from Jo at Wise Buddah and the team at NOISEfestival.com. These people have given me the confidence to carry on and not give up.

I think the government could do more with work experience. I can understand a school leaver needing experience within a working environment but I’ve worked in supermarkets before. How would this benefit me? Surely it’s in the Government’s interest to get me into a job so that I can start to pay back my huge student debt?

I don’t think all the blame can be put upon the Government; I also think that companies themselves need to help the next generation. If I had my own company I think it would want to search out people that needed help/mentoring into full time work. Not everyone is fortunate enough or financially stable enough to have opportunities or have work experience given to them.

My plan now is to concentrate on getting my CV redesigned to a level that either matches or surpasses my competition. I also need to work on my folio and get that up to scratch. I am worried about being able to afford printing out my work at a standard that is professional enough to take to interviews.

My goal is to start getting interviews again for design jobs, I want to take one step at a time but I think I would like to make the move to London. A new fresh start with a new job really excites me! I think it’s what I need right now as I feel like I’m in a rut at the minute.

Richard Joseph

My name is Richard Joseph and with my twin brother Antony I set up Joseph Joseph Ltd in 2003. I had a great first meeting with Craig. He is a hugely talented designer with a real interest and passion for 2D design. But Craig’s situation is tough and frustrating. It must be very similar for a high number of designers looking for work. Having met him he is a guy with a real passion for this line of work and a real talent but he’s had virtually no support in preparing to find work. I believe with help we can seriously improve his chances of finding work.

Karen Wan

Since being on air a month ago I’ve been in touch with my new mentor Claire Young who’s been a great help ever since. She’s helped me improve my CV, looked over some of my cover letters and graduate applications, put me in touch with a company who was hiring and also arranged for me to meet Peter Dodd, sales and marketing director at Welcome to Yorkshire.

Claire and Karen

When Claire and I met, she made some interesting points for me to reflect on. These included making sure I use social media as much as I can, and to have more confidence in my abilities and experience. Also, if I really want something I’m going to have to nag people, so get on the phones, ask to speak to the right person and, if I’m still not getting anywhere or they’re not getting back to me, nag and nag again.

One interesting thing she said was: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I’ve heard this many times before but was never really convinced it was true. There are many people out there who have made it on their own. The problem here is that I lack a professional network. So as a lost and self-diminished graduate knocked by a year of no replies, rejections and reality slapping me in my face, I asked Claire, “How do you network with no network?”

The answer was simple. Get out there. Claire suggested that I join a networking group and not be afraid to stand up and tell people that I’m looking to get my foot in the door. Networking is my mission of the month. 

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After meeting Claire, I was off to a practise interview with Peter Dodd at Welcome to Yorkshire. The role I was interviewing for was marketing manager. It was quite daunting as there wasn’t either a job or person specification - nor did I feel I was good enough to be a Marketing Manager. Nevertheless, the only thing I could do was be myself, do research and answer questions the best I can.

I arrived at the gorgeous Welcome to Yorkshire offices and met Peter, at which point I was feeling calmer than I thought I would. I don’t know whether it was the welcoming atmosphere of the offices, or that I was there with the producer, but something gave me a sense of support.

I don’t actually remember what I felt during the interview; all I remember is focusing on the questions. In fact when the interview finished I thought it had gone better than I expected. I didn’t get flustered with my words, I didn’t panic and I didn’t have too many ‘umm’ moments. Or at least I don’t think I did.

Even though I performed fairly well in the interview, in a real situation I wouldn’t have got the job. Peter gave some great feedback. When asked what I could improve, amongst a list of useful suggestions was to have more confidence in my abilities; as I’m capable of more than what I believe I am (didn’t Claire say that too?).

Having met Claire and Peter has definitely helped with my confidence and they’ve given me some really insightful advice. I just need to start believing in myself more and learn how to sell myself better to employers. My mission of the month is a tough one, but hopefully, over the next four weeks I’ll start building up my confidence and get out there.

Claire Young

I'm 32 years old and run my own business www.schoolspeakers.co.uk. Many will remember me battling it out with Lord Sugar in the 2008 series of the BBC1 hit TV show The Apprentice.       I jumped at the chance to be involved in this project and offer my support as a mentor. Every single one of us has needed help at some time and I really do feel for young people in today’s challenging job market. Imagine the difference which would be made if every employer stepped up and offered help to students, we'd see a serious revolution

Danielle Devlin

After the radio show I got some press coverage with a local newspaper about the setup of my new business and the New Enterprise Allowance I'm receiving. I also, shortly after the show, had my first conference call with my mentor, Rosemary Parr which was great. She really put me at ease and explained her very inspirational story of how she got where she is today. She also gave me some invaluable advice about setting up and finding free hosting for my first website and a link to businesslink.gov.uk, which is a tool for business start ups.

After the conference call with Rosemary it gave me the drive to finally tackle the problem of setting up a website. It was great using the free templates online and really easy to do - I don't know why I was worrying about it: allkindsofmurals.yolasite.com. I'm pretty pleased with the results for my first attempt. It's such a learning curve.

The following week I was asked to go down to London to meet up with Rosemary face-to-face. I was quite nervous about meeting her. We had spoken on the phone but face-to-face impressions are very different. I think the fact that Rosemary is such a successful business woman unnerved me, but when I finally met her she was lovely, so down to earth and put me at ease immediately.

She had some fantastic marketing strategies, such as making flyers and taking my business cards to local nurseries, playgroups and playgrounds. Try and get myself as noticed as possible.

We also went over my business plan and looked at making some improvements. Rosemary has been an invaluable source I'm so pleased that I got to meet her. She also plans to be both a mentor and coach through this process, which I am really looking forward too, and she plans to try and get me my first mural commission by the end of March. Fingers crossed.

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While I was in London meeting Rosemary I was also asked to meet and put some questions to David Miliband. I jumped at the chance even though it was a little daunting. He launched a new six-point plan to get Britain’s 'Lost Generation' of young people back into work. He wants to look at those who have been unemployed for longer than 12-months and aims to provide a scheme where they are given a role within a company on a part-time basis and are given a part-time wage for six months. This will be approximately the same amount per week as the current Job Seekers Allowance, but it will provide them with much needed experience which can be used on CV's and help them improve their job prospects.

I think that this is a fabulous idea in theory. There are so many young people who will gain much needed experience within the workplace and it’s invaluable to be able to put something like that on a CV.

Danielle and David Miliband

I do think they will come upon some stumbling blocks. I don't think that this could be blanketed across all 18-24 year olds because everyone's personal circumstances are different. For example, how willing would an employer be asked to take on someone who has a previous criminal record for theft?

I think if each person who has been unemployed for over twelve months is looked at on an individual basis and placed in a position accordingly I think it really could be a workable and helpful scheme, far better then just receiving money once a fortnight. The experience alone would be a valuable asset to any CV. I think that it will push people to work harder to be kept on at the end of the six months.

I just hope it wouldn't be abused by employers employing people for six months before recruiting someone new, therefore never having to foot a bill; the six-month wage will be paid for through Government funds.

I really enjoyed meeting David Miliband. He was engaging, he seems to have a really good grip on the unemployment situation. But I think it’s a shame that the study is focusing on those in the 18-24 year age bracket; I believe that people unemployed for longer than 12 months of any age group would be more than happy to take on a part-time role to try and help them out of the situation they are in.

I discussed the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme with both Rosemary Parr and David Miliband. The main point was that although this allowance is working for me I don't think you can feasibly set up a business on £65-a-week. Although I already have the materials and tools necessary for my business to run, if you were having to buy stock or other supplies, that amount just wouldn't be adequate. I think that in theory, it is a good scheme but I don't think you’re given either enough per week to set up a working business model, nor enough time before the allowance drops to £35 per week; my allowance is about to drop and I still haven't had my first commission and it’s worrying.

In the week since getting back from London I have been to see a community centre mural. They originally had a different artist to do it but because of how much it had cost they could only get half of the mural done. They’ve since had their funding cut. I’ve priced up how much it would cost for materials alone and have offered my time for free to help them finish. Fingers crossed we are going to be finishing it in the Easter holidays.

Let’s see how this next month goes.

Rosemary Parr

As the founder of the Global PA Network I know the pitfalls and challenges of running your own business and this is an opportunity to pass on my knowledge to Danielle and the wider audience.  Danielle is using the National Enterprise Allowance Scheme and is supported for up to 26 weeks, initially 13 weeks at £65 per week and then another 13 weeks at £33 per week.  In my view it’s a tall order to expect someone to start a business and turn it around into providing an income in only 26 weeks.  You don’t need a perfect business plan, it’s more about getting out there and doing it!  The business plan is a focus and reminder of goals and gives the confidence and self belief in what you have created.

Richie Mole

Over the past month I have been fortunate enough to be put in touch with my mentor Tristram. I met up with him at the Go Ape course at Matfen Hall where we had a good chat about myself and also about what he’s achieved. Tristram gave me some really good advice about how to best pursue the career I’m looking for. He told me the best ways to get noticed from potential employers and how to go about doing that.

I was a bit wary and nervous when I was going to meet him and his site manager Barry; I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’ve learned a lot from them. Myself and Tristram tackled the Go Ape course and had a good chat on the way around about where I am in trying to pursue my career. I also talked to Dave - an employee at Go Ape - who gave me lots of advice about how he got into his job and a lot of information about potential courses.


Following from the meeting I have taken on some of their advice and have approached a few companies on trying to get some work experience with them before I go away to volunteer at the end of April.

Tristram Mayhew

I was motivated to try to help Richie get a foothold on his dream career because no one offered me any help when I faced a similar position 10 years ago.

A key quality we look for in all our instructors is an inner confidence and strong people skills. A good instructor is something of a performer. He or she need to be natural encouragers, to be able to talk to groups of all ages and backgrounds, and be good communicators. Richie needs to work on this as he is very quietly spoken. He needs to project his personality more to give prospective employers confidence that he can hold a groups’ attention with natural authority. That said, Richie came across as a nice lad who is putting into place a sensible plan to achieve his ambition.

5 live Drive's unemployment series is a Wise Buddah / NOISEfestival production.

Jo Meek is a producer for 5 live Drive's unemployment special


  • Comment number 1.

    Of these job seekers, two out of four have degrees. Craig has a degree in design. What subject is Karen's degree?

  • Comment number 2.

    I have not got a Degree,i am also in the age bracket of the young unemployed,i have never had a probelm finding work, granted the job market is extremly competitve but there are many jobs out there.

  • Comment number 3.

    I would have really liked to see mentoring of a group of unemployed young people who do not have degrees. This group needs the most help and as we are hearing today, literacy and numeracy are so lacking in many kids that by the time they get to secondary school, many are struggling. These are the ones the BBC should have chosen for this exercise. But sadly they are not the ones that could be introduced to these kind of mentors and it wouldn't make such a good story.

    In Lambeth there is a mentoring scheme which is tackling the hard issues kids face in job and career searching, and why should a child leaving secondary school without many GCSEs of high quality be less worthy to have a career than someone described by the mentor as a "hugely talented designer' who is clearly going to make it anyway because of his skill? Mentoring children who leave with a B tec in tourism or similar, now that would be a challenge. One of the sad things left by the last government is the feeling that everyone has the right to a degree and some of the courses offered were so ridiculous, they have wasted the period after graduating because the people are discovering that their degree is worthless in the job market. I am so sorry that the vast majority of the young unemployed cannot get a foothold because mentoring iin the last year of school/first year after if unemployed, is not seen as something every business, government department or whatever, should offer.

    While I am on the subject, Tony Livesey was discussing degrees the other night and defended the huge numbers of undergraduates in Media Studies. He should know that virtually all of them will be unemployable. Of course it is a fun thing to study but I would like to know the percentage of graduates from the lower grade universities who actually manage to get a media job.

  • Comment number 4.

    In reply to the message it needs to be emphasised that of the 4 young people in the programme 2 don't have degrees. Richie who spent part of his life in care, and Danielle who is bringing up a small child. Of the 2 that do have degrees Craig left to start-up his own design company, but the company folded because no one had ever taught him how to run a creative business. Although he has learning difficulties Craig went back to finish his course, but the debts of his business failure meant he spent the months over last Christmas in a homeless shelter. I don't think that this is a privileged or elitist group of young people. Even with a business degree Karen cannot find work that uses her skills.

    It is exactly these types of young people, disadvantaged in very different ways, that the NOISEfestival.com Charity strives to help. Sign up to learn to be mentors for our new, informal learning initiative, launching later this year.

  • Comment number 5.

    @Denise_Noise You say that Karen has a business degree. In the previous blog on 15 February, it just said that Karen had a good degree from a reputable university. Where did you find out that it was a business degree? Perhaps you are connected with the programme. Anyway Karen has a good business degree from a reputable university.

    I studied economics and I believe that there is a lot of evidence for an eleven year trade cycle of expansion and depression. Therefore if you look back eleven years it may be of some help to people to know what the economic climate has in store.

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh, and a little more to add about trade cycles... there is evidence that that changes in solar activity, changes in sun spots, have an effect on the trade cycle. Probably many of you know that anyway.


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