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5 live Drive: Unemployment Blogs

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Jo Meek | 14:31 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Woman entering a Job Centre

Over the next three months Drive will hear directly from 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.

5 live will be following their journeys from February to May - both on Drive and on this blog - and hearing the challenges they face in securing jobs or setting up their own businesses.

They'll be introduced to their own 'mentors' who'll try and inspire them, and challenged to create a manifesto to improve the employment chances for their generation.

Craig Atherton, 29, from Wigan - Graduate, unemployed, currently on Job Seekers Allowance:

I was born and raised in the small town of Wigan. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I was able to escape the trappings of living in a small town. It was November 2004 when I waved goodbye to my family at the airport with my backpack, passport and a ticket to Thailand.

That day my life changed completely. I left school with only two GCSEs (art & drama) and very low self-esteem. I was undiagnosed with ADHD, Dyslexia and dyspraxia. My teachers branded me as a clown and trouble-maker that would never achieve anything in life yet there I was backpacking around Thailand on my own. It was one of the hardest, scariest and happiest times of my life so far. I learnt that anything is possible in life. Within two weeks of returning to the UK I had moved to Carlisle and got myself onto an art and design course at Cumbria institute of the arts. This enabled me to study communication design at University and I graduated with a 2:1 full of hope.

Craig Atherton

Almost two years on and I’m still not working in the creative industry. I was working as a receptionist but lost my job and I’ve now been unemployed for 6 months.

My life now consists of daily job searching and CV tailoring. It’s hard searching for a job when you don’t actually know what you want. My dream is to own my own design company working within all different kinds of areas, from having a t-shirt line to having my own magazine. I truly believe that design can alter people’s moods and perceptions. This is a responsibility that all designers should give more consideration in my opinion.

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I’ve pretty much lost most of my confidence in my creative abilities so I apply for all jobs these days, from cleaning, customer services to creative positions. I can’t afford to be picky like I was when I first graduated. All of my spare time goes on keeping myself creative because it’s the only thing that keeps me sane.

I enter competitions to keep myself busy that’s how I got involved with NOISEfestival.com. 'The Art of Protest' was the brief. I entered with an A2 screen-printed poster titled 'England’s glory'. I was lucky enough to be chosen to exhibit the poster at 'the art of protest exhibition in Manchester.


Danielle Devlin, 28, from County Durham - starting her own business on the New Enterprise Allowance scheme:

I'm Danielle I'm 28 and from County Durham. I am currently in the process of starting up my own business producing wall murals.

Here's a bit of background: In 2004 I became a company director in our family run business and after winding the business down and closing in 2006 I joined the local police force as a detention officer.

In 2009 I had my first child. As both me and my partner work night shifts it was impossible to juggle with childcare - so I finished work after my maternity leave and became a full time parent to my daughter.

I've been actively seeking work for the past eight months; I have sent out countless CV's but never seem to get any replies. I have often found my past experience to be a barrier depending on the role I'm applying for. When applying for jobs, the fact that I've been a company director is often a hindrance as many feel I'm over qualified for the roles.

After applying for many positions I started to think ‘outside the box’ and looked at all the skills I had and whether they were transferable to a business that I could run myself which would fit around family life. After asking at my local job centre I was told about a government allowance that could help with starting up a new business – the new enterprise allowance. They also pointed me in the direction of the Derwentside Enterprise Agency (DEA) who have been such a helpful resource.

Earlier in the year I had decided to paint my daughters wall with her favourite character to try and entice her into sleeping in her own room. Needless to say it work and she started to ask for all her favourites on each wall until her room was full. And so from tiny acorns...

Mural by Danielle

I went back to the job centre with the idea of starting up a business providing hand sketched and hand painted children's wall murals. They thought it was a great idea and started the ball rolling with the government allowance. I began writing a business plan and handed it into DEA who signed it off and passed me back to the Job Centre to transfer me from Job Seekers Allowance onto the New Enterprise Allowance.

This is a grant that provides new businesses with £65 per week for the first 13 weeks the business is trading, dropping to £33 for the next 13 weeks. After 26 weeks the allowance is stopped and the idea is that by this point your business should be fully functioning and providing you with an income. While in receipt of the allowance you are also assigned a mentor who can give you business advice. This has helped so much with the start up of my business and I have high hopes now for the future.

Keeping everything crossed!


Karen Wan, 23, from Mansfield - graduate currently working part time as a waitress:

Admitting to family and friends that I’m not in a “proper” job isn’t the easiest thing to do, let alone admitting it to the nation on BBC radio. Having graduated in 2010 with a good degree from a well reputable university and still struggling to find work at 24 isn’t exactly something to shout about.

So why have I just done so? I was told that I could help create a manifesto on unemployment in the hope that it’ll get to decision makers on the matter. In return, I give an insight about my experiences of looking for a job as a graduate. At a time like this I really don’t have much to lose and can use all the help I can get as I feel even more confused and lost than ever before. With that in mind I agreed, plus it seemed like an opportunity to do some good, for me and the other 2 million or so unemployed.

Karen Wan

Photo by Noise Festival / Liam Carter

My participation in this is more about the general cause and aims of the show and less about my rants and complaints of my situation. In fact, I generally don’t complain about it because at least I have a part time job and I only have myself to look after.

The only times when I have complained (other than this one) is when I’ve been asked to talk about it. With unemployment figures rising every week, if there’s an opportunity to make a little difference to such a large number of people and potentially future generations, then this can only be a good thing…

I remember saying a while ago to a potential employer that one of my dreams is to be able to influence good. I think this makes a good starting point, don’t you?


Richie Mole, 19 from Newcastle. Unemployed on JobSeekers Allowance, but in training:

I’m 19 years old and grew up in a small town called Amble in Northumberland. I was raised by my parents until I was 10 years old, before being put into foster care.

From a young age I was always a nightmare at school and at my foster homes. As I started to grow up I started sticking in at school and came out with 3 GCSE’S at grade C. Since leaving school I became a Young Inspector, which meant that me and a group of young people visited youth services to give advice on how they could improve and make their service more young-people friendly.

Richie Mole

In 2010 I applied for a volunteering trip away to India with a charity called Raleigh International. My application was successful so I embarked on a 3-week trip to India. While I was there I built sanitary units in a village; it really made me realize the different cultures and helped me appreciate more the little things I have in life. When I got back from India I got a job working as a call centre agent. I worked there for eight months but had to end the job after my Granddad passed away and it became too stressful.

In 2011 I started a 16-week course with Tomorrow’s People, which was all about making myself more employable. During my course I was volunteering in the community, which was good to put on my CV. Also during the course we took part in outdoor activities, which made me realize that becoming an Outdoor Instructor was what I wanted to do as a career.

Now I am doing a course with Fairbridge, who are in partnership with the Princes’ Trust. The Fairbridge course is helping me to improve my skills in most outdoor activities. I am also getting advice from the Fairbridge staff on becoming an Outdoor Instructor.

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Later this year I’m going away with a charity called Restless Development to Zambia. I applied for this opportunity at the back end of 2011 and was later invited to an interview in January 2012. I am going to be going away for three months and will be teaching in a community. I have always had a passion for helping other people whether they’re disadvantaged or not, so I can’t wait to go. When I get back I hope to go to college to gain my qualifications in outdoor pursuits and get a job.

I’m really excited to get involved with 5 live and hope to gain a lot from this experience. I am also looking forward to meeting my mentor who can hopefully give me a lot of hints and tips on how to go further with my career choice.

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.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    If I was a prospective employer I am afraid the first thing I would look at is the University where the applicant obtained their degree and that would actually effect my initial judgement on the suitability of the person - that is because a degree from some second tier old Poly would not stack up against, for example, a Russell Group university. Both my kids have not had it easy in gaining their jobs and neither have their partners. It is hard out there and no-one has a God given right to a job, it was ever so for the vast majority of us however old you are. Sometimes you have to work your way up from the bottom, even if its not the thing you want, any experience is never wasted, it is good to show you are a trier.

  • Comment number 4.

    Comment 1 removed as I had the temerity to criticise the sainted Ms D.


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