The GREAT Project launches their #BehindEveryGREATMan campaign


The Getting Ready for Employment and Training (GREAT) Project is a Leicester-based project, designed to help individuals who are part of families and not currently working, move towards employment or training. Through a variety of sessions delivered by partners and Employment Coordinators, participants are given personalised support to overcome any barriers they face. The project is launching their ‘Behind Every GREAT Man…’ campaign in a bid to sign up more men.

The ‘Behind Every GREAT Man…’ campaign is an extension of the GREAT Project’s ‘GREAT men get things done’ initiative. The campaign is geared towards all men that are part of a family and asks the question ‘what does employment mean to you?’ By asking this question, the project hopes to start a conversation that encourages individuals to identify why they want to find work, and inspire them to join the project. The campaign promotes inclusivity, showing the diversity of the participants with whom the project works and addressing their individual needs.

Previously, one third of all participants were male, but with the number of male sign-ups declining, the number of men on the project now only accounts for one quarter of all participants. The project is keen to engage with more males, understand what has prevented them from previously seeking support, and encourage those who are facing barriers to work to contact them.

To date, the GREAT Project has received a total of 1,308 referrals; only 348 of those have been male. Out of this number, 123 males signed up to the project and 38 of these completed the project with an outcome; either work, further training or job search.

There are two key messages the GREAT Project wants individuals to take away from this campaign. First, the project wants to encourage participants to believe in themselves and their own abilities to overcome the barriers they face. Secondly, in a bid to combat the stigma around asking for help, the project’s philosophy is ‘doing it yourself doesn’t mean doing it alone’. One of their key objectives for this campaign is to let people know that it’s okay to ask for help.

Vandna Gohil, Executive Project Manager for the GREAT Project, said:

“We know men tend to shy away from accessing support that’s available to them for many reasons. Quite often it’s because they don’t want to admit there’s a problem, or they feel they will face judgement or stigma because they asked for help.

We want individuals to know that this isn’t the case and that help is out there. We’re here to offer support and guidance to help them become the person they want to be.”


Simon Gambardella (pictured) had ongoing health issues and became unemployed as a result of this. He began to suffer from depression and anxiety, which led his GP to inform him of the GREAT Project. Simon decided to self-refer, and his attendance and commitment to the project was exceptional. He accessed a variety of courses and sessions whilst on the project, and it helped him overcome his barriers. Simon also found that he was not alone, with many other people facing similar barriers to him. Through the GREAT Project, Simon found a full time role that he enjoys and feels he can excel in.

The project takes both self-referrals and organisational referrals, and encourages those that have barriers to work and need support to contact them. Individuals can self-refer by texting GREAT and their name to 66777 or by calling 0116 257 5020. Organisations are free to contact the project by calling the same number. For more information, please visit:

The GREAT Project is a partnership of multiple organisations and is delivered by Voluntary Action LeicesterShire, a charity dedicated to helping change lives for the better in local communities. The GREAT Project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

GREAT Participant moves into employment

Nickolette was a single mum of a young child when she met the GREAT Project at Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival. She had severe anxiety disorder and felt like she was in a hole she couldn’t get out of. She spoke with the team about all the support the GREAT Project could offer, and decided to self-refer.

“I had severe anxiety disorder and I couldn’t function properly. I just felt like everything was passing me by.”

Yachna was appointed Nickolette’s Employment Support Officer (ESO), and they soon met to discuss all the barriers Nickolette was facing. When meeting with Yachna, Nickolette explained that she’d tried a lot of methods and tactics herself, but as they hadn’t worked before, she had reservations about whether they would work this time. Yachna devised a support plan specific to Nickolette’s needs, and she soon began taking part in the variety of activities the project offers.

Nickolette attended work club, where she received support around applying for jobs, including writing her CV and personal statement. She also accessed the project’s in-house workshops and took part in the interview skills session. One of the things that really benefitted Nickolette, was the three-day confidence building course. Here, she was encouraged to work with other participants in an attempt to complete a variety of tasks.

Nickolette’s time with the project came to an end when she successfully completed a work placement at a popular UK retailer and secured a job there when she finished her placement.

Nickolette said:

“The project helped me so much and gave me so many opportunities. Everything I did was fun and I was never forced to do anything. Everything was my choice, but I just had support to do it. I’m not burying my head in the sand anymore; I’m an active member of my community instead of letting life pass me by.”

Yachna said:

“Nickolette has come a long way from when I first met her. She suffered with anxiety and now she enjoys getting up every day to go to work. I’m so glad we’ve been able to help and wish her all the best for the future.”

Watch Nickolette’s story here.

The GREAT Project helps a paticipant think outside the box

At the time of joining the GREAT Project, Shannon didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life or what career path she wanted to take, and she just wasn’t sure what options were out there for her.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, and this made me feel trapped. Because I didn’t have any passions, I just felt lost and fed-up.”

Shannon first came into contact with the GREAT Project at Coalville JobCentre, when a project sign-up day was held there. After talking to staff about the project and all it can offer, Shannon decided to refer herself. Diana was appointed Shannon’s Employment Support Officer (ESO), and the pair soon met to talk about what barriers Shannon was facing. This helped Diana devise a support plan tailored to Shannon’s needs.

Once on the project, Shannon started off by attending work club sessions, delivered by Leicestershire County Council. Here, Shannon worked on writing her CV and cover letter, as well as learning the skills she needed to be able to search for a job independently. Shannon also benefitted from attending two of the project’s in-house workshops; interview skills and return to work. Both of which are geared towards giving participants the skills they need to succeed in securing and starting a new job. Shannon also went on a work placement at a leading UK supermarket before completing her time on the project.

Speaking of her time on the project, Shannon said:

“The GREAT Project helped me believe in myself and helped me find new passions I never thought would have been for me. They opened my eyes to new opportunities and encouraged me to try things that might not always be my first choice, because sometimes you find that it actually is an interest to you. I can’t recommend it enough.”

Diana said:

“The transformation I have seen in Shannon is amazing. She’s gone from feeling lost to enjoying a new career she never thought she’d enjoy. I’m so happy we were able to support Shannon and she has a career she likes.”

Shannon has now completed her time with the GREAT Project, and found employment as a cleaner for an emergency services depot.

A GREAT Project participant starts their dream career

Eleni came into contact with the GREAT Project when her aunt told her about what the project does. Her aunt was at Loughborough Jobcentre when she discovered the GREAT Project, and she thought Eleni would benefit from signing up. When Eleni agreed, it was her aunt that referred her.

“I felt I had to do something because my anxiety was getting worse and I knew I needed to find my way.”

Diana was appointed as Eleni’s Employment Support Officer (ESO) at the beginning of her time with the project. But when Diana went to meet with Eleni for the first time, it was Eleni’s aunt that came. Unfortunately, as Eleni suffered so much with her anxiety, she felt too nervous to meet with Diana herself so she sent her aunt. Over time, Diana was able to build a bond with Eleni, which meant they could work together to create a support plan tailored to Eleni’s needs.

Eleni told Diana that she wanted to become more confident and be able to communicate with others, so she could fulfil her dream of owning her own hair salon. Diana recommended various activities for Eleni to take part in, including work club and in-house workshops. Whilst at work club, Eleni was able to work on her CV, as well as her personal statement and cover letter. She then took part in multiple in-house workshops, including budgeting, interview techniques and managing return to work. Accessing all these sessions encouraged Eleni to communicate with others and slowly she began to feel more comfortable.

Eleni’s biggest turning point came from the confidence building course she went on. This course runs for three consecutive days, and encourages participants to communicate and work together in order to finish activities. It really helps to break down barriers and allows participants the chance to bond with others.

Another one of the activities Eleni accessed was a behind the scenes tour organised by delivery partner, Business in the Community. Eleni found this helpful as it gave her the opportunity to talk to employers and see what being in a working environment felt like.

Speaking of her time on the project, Eleni said:

“I really enjoyed my time with the project. It gave me the confidence I needed and I felt safe talking with, and meeting, new people. I don’t feel lost anymore and I’m leaving the project doing what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Diana said:

“Eleni has come so far, I barely recognise her. She was so shy at the start that it wasn’t even her I met with, and now she’s a confident young woman. Her drive and focus whilst on the project was outstanding – she was so engaged ALL the time. I’m so proud of all she’s achieved and wish her all the best for the very bright future she has ahead of her.”

Eleni completed her time with the project and recently began an apprenticeship at a Loughborough-based hair salon.

A new addition to the GREAT team

Today, we said a temporary ‘au revoir’ to Diana, one of the GREAT Projects Employment Support Officers (ESO). Diana is going on maternity leave so she can focus on the newest addition to her family, and the GREAT Project team; her soon-to-be-born baby boy.

Diana has been with the GREAT Project since 2017, and has been incredible colleague and friend to all of us here, not to mention an amazing ESO to her participants. At our Changing Lives Together event, Prafula Joshi, one of Diana’s participants, gave a short speech and gave Diana a special mention.

“My mentor, my ESO, Diana, and my friend; she’s followed me, she’s taught me and she’s still giving me support even now with the job I’ve got.”

From all of us here at GREAT and Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL), we wish you all the best for motherhood and the arrival of your bundle of joy.

Another GREAT Project participant finds employment

Jessica had not long moved back to Leicester when she found out about the GREAT Project. She was attending the Leicester Town Hall’s summer Playday and came across a GREAT Project stall where she spoke with a member of the team. After discussing all the project can offer and what support it provides, Jessica felt like it was the right project for her.

When Jessica spoke to the team, she felt lost and had little confidence or motivation to find a job. She’d spent a number of years self-employed and this affected her confidence; she didn’t know how to get out there and look for a job anymore.

“When I joined the GREAT Project I was desperate for help. I really felt down about being unemployed but I just didn’t know what I could do to change it.”

Jessica met with Harinder, her Employment Support Officer (ESO), to discuss her options and what she wanted to achieve whilst on the project. The main support Jessica wanted was help around applying for jobs, including writing her CV. However, once Harinder explained all the opportunities that were available, Jessica was quick to take up the range of support available to her.

Not only did she receive the support she wanted when it came to applying for jobs, she also attended in-house workshops based on interview techniques and self-employment. What really helped Jessica though, and what she credits her new found confidence to, is her participation on the three day confidence building course. This course is designed to encourage participants to work with one another in order to solve problems and complete tasks. With this new confidence, Jessica visited BBC Leicester Radio to speak on air about her time with the project.

Jessica also completed a work placement organised by delivery partner, Business in the Community. She enjoyed her time so much with the homelessness charity, she applied for a paid position within the organisation. The charity was so impressed by Jessica, they offered her the role.

Jessica said:

“Meeting with Harinder gave me a purpose and the belief that I was going to be okay. Attending the workshops gave me the chance to meet other people in a similar position to myself, and that helped me a lot. The project heard and understood me, and that meant the most.”

Harinder said:

“I’m thrilled Jessica has come so far and achieved the goal she set out to do. She came to us unsure she would ever be able to find work and now she’s employed and enjoying it. Her progress over the months has been incredible and I really am exceptionally proud of all she’s achieved.”

Jessica continues to work for the homelessness charity and is enjoying her new role.

A GREAT Project participant moves into paid employment


Emma, a single mother of four, was unemployed before she joined the GREAT Project. Her ultimate goal was to find work, but she was unsure where or how to start. With this in mind, Emma took her first proactive steps towards this goal, and attended a ‘Progress to Work’ event. It was here she found out about the GREAT Project.

“I needed to get work and I needed help with my skills, especially my confidence and CV writing. I just couldn’t do it on my own.”

Emma joined the GREAT Project knowing she wanted to find work, but she wasn’t sure how to overcome the barriers she faced. After discussing the options that would be available to her as a participant on the project, Emma felt she’d finally found the right programme to help. This was further cemented after she met with her Employment Support Officer, Anita, who spoke with her about the career goals she had and presented her with all her available options.

Whilst on the project, Emma firstly attended work club sessions. It was here she was able to look for a role that would be suitable for her, as well as access the help she’d been looking for when it came to writing a CV. After receiving support around looking for a job, Emma attended the confidence building course and an interview skills workshop. Both of these were geared towards building Emma’s confidence in different scenarios and gave her adaptable skills she could take anywhere. The final part of Emma’s journey came when she met with delivery partner, Business in the Community, who organised for her to go on a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour at a local organisation that provides care services to individuals. Here, Emma expressed interest in working in the care sector, and the company invited her back for an interview. Emma was successful in her interview and was offered the role.

Emma had this to say about her time with the project:

“The project made me believe in myself, it gave me more confidence. It helped me get into the work that I want to do forever. Thank you!”

By completing the project, Emma was also quick to recommend the project to others, and said:

“Do it! As soon as possible – the sooner, the better!”

Anita, Emma’s Employment Support Officer whilst on the project, said:

“Working with Emma has been an absolute pleasure. Seeing her go from strength to strength whilst on the project makes me feel immensely proud. The fact she secured a job in an industry she wants to work in just makes her experience that much better.”

Emma is currently enjoying her new role, and is looking forward to what the future may bring.

GREAT participant successfully completes their time with the project

Mother of five, Tracey, left her job and never found the confidence to put herself back into employment. She began to feel like she was no longer herself, isolated and away from everyone. Tracey’s main barrier that she felt she had to overcome was her self-confidence.

“My self-confidence was at an all-time low, my life at home was chaotic, and I was in a truly dark place. I’ve spent so long being knocked back time after time, nothing I said or did was ever right. I basically felt like there was no hope in continuing.”

Tracey, who was unemployed at the time of joining the GREAT Project, was referred by a family support worker. Her goal was to exit the project feeling more confident in herself and when looking for a job, but admits she didn’t have much faith as she’d been let down by different programmes before.

Whilst on the project, Tracey forged a strong relationship with her Employment Support Officer, Emma, who supported Tracey through the entirety of her time on the project, ensuring she knew about all the options available to her. Tracey accessed a range of activities whilst on the project, including one-to-one work club sessions where she received support in writing a CV and a cover letter, as well as the confidence building course.

The confidence building is a three-day programme designed to develop relationships, reflection and resilience. The course is delivered in a way that’s fun and engaging, helping participants come out their shell and build their skills in a variety of things including; teamwork, communication, confidence and positive thinking.

Tracey puts her new found confidence down to the course, and says it’s the best thing she’s done in a long time. Whilst on the training, she met people she has remained friends with and intends to meet up with them regularly.

“I felt like I wasn’t making my own decisions and everything I did was for other people, but this is something I did for me. I woke up in the morning and felt like I had a purpose, and the best part about it all was the fact it was fun. I don’t really remember doing anything fun over my life, but I remember everything I did with the GREAT Project. I’m genuinely upset that my time with the project has come to an end, but I’ve had an incredible experience and met some amazing people. To those unsure or considering joining the project, I’d say do it now, because it’s the best thing you’ll ever do.”

Emma was Tracey’s Employment Support Officer through the entirety of her time on the project and said:

“I am proud to have witnessed Tracey’s accomplishments whilst she was on the project. She has come a long way and managed to overcome barriers through sheer courage and determination. Hopefully now she will believe that her dreams are within her grasp”.

Looking forward, Tracey intends to carry on her job search, utilising all the skills she learnt as a participant on the GREAT Project. She feels more confident in herself and is looking forward to finding a new role.

A GREAT participant secures volunteer role


Eda came to the UK a little over three years ago from her native country, Turkey. Between living in Turkey and Dubai, Eda had acquired the skills she needed for her career, but once in the UK, she was unsure how to transfer them. Eda knew she wanted to find work supporting adults, but didn’t know where to begin.

“I came to the UK and knew I wanted to support adults, especially refugees. I learnt the skills I needed elsewhere, but I didn’t know how to use them here and I didn’t know where to begin. I just felt lost and overwhelmed.”

Eda heard about the opportunities that would be available to her as a participant on the GREAT Project and decided to self-refer. Diana was appointed Eda’s Employment Support Officer (ESO) and met with her to understand what barriers she faced so they could work together to overcome them. Eda ultimately wanted to improve her English, learn about the opportunities available in the UK, and integrate herself more into British society.

“I wanted to be able to integrate and live happily in Britain. I needed to get out to meet new people and socialise, but before joining the GREAT Project, I only left the house to take my daughter to playgroup.”

Whilst on the project, Eda received support from delivery partner, Business in the Community. She visited local businesses on ‘behind the scenes’ tours, and also completed a work placement at a recognised humanitarian charity. Eda also accessed the support of Work Club, and learnt about CV’s, cover letters and job search skills.

Eda has now completed her time on the project, and is enjoying the new lease of life she has found.

“Now I have new friends and new skills. I have done this training and it has given me a new perspective on life!

Diana, Eda’s Employment Support Officer, said:

“Eda really is an inspiration. She came to the UK wanting to better herself so she could help others, and that’s such an admirable thing to do. She had the skills already, she just needed support to bring them out. I wish her all the best for the future.”

After her placement, Eda continued with the humanitarian charity and is now a permanent volunteer.

A GREAT Project participant shares their story

Before relocating to the UK, Joanna worked as both a primary and secondary school teacher in her native country, Poland. Before joining the GREAT Project, Joanna felt her English language skills were not good enough to work as a teacher in the UK and she was also concerned she didn’t understand the British educational system. Joanna started on the project in the hopes she would better her language skills and to eventually find work in her field.

“I was at a time in my life where I wanted to think about looking for employment, but I needed help to find work and to understand the job market.”

Joanna first interacted with the GREAT Project when she met Eileen, an Employment Support Officer (ESO), at a children’s play session held at Beaumont Leys library. After discussing all the options that would become available to her as a participant on the project, Joanna decided to refer herself. Eileen was then appointed Joanna’s ESO, and they soon began working together to design a support plan right for Joanna.

Once signed up to the project, Eileen spoke with Joanna about her barriers and goals, and designed a support plan tailored to her needs. One of the first sessions Joanna was encouraged to attend was work club. Joanna was able to work on her CV and learn the skills she needed to search for a job effectively. Following on from this, Joanna also had a one-to-one interview skills session, followed by a mock interview. This is something Eileen felt would be beneficial for Joanna, as it would help prepare her for interviewing using English as a second language.

Although Joanna has all the relevant qualifications to teach in England, she felt most comfortable looking for a teaching assistant role, as she felt this would be an easier transition. Eileen felt it would be beneficial for Joanna to look at job specifications for a variety of teaching assistant roles, as this would give Joanna insight into what skills and qualifications would be needed at different levels. A real turning point in Joanna’s confidence came when she saw an advert that was specifically looking for a Polish speaking teaching assistant. Seeing this role showed Joanna that being bi-lingual is hugely beneficial and is considered a valued skill as oppose to a barrier.

Speaking of her time on the project, Joanna said:

“I really enjoyed having someone to talk to, and speaking in English has shown me that I can be understood by others. I also really liked having time to focus on my needs. Being a mother, sometimes it can be hard to focus on yourself, but I was able to put myself first. For those that are thinking about joining the GREAT Project, go for it – do something for yourself. Trust the people that offer you help because it’s worth a try.”

Eileen, Joanna’s Employment Support Officer, said:

“Joanna really has it all; good qualifications and work experience. She just needs to have more confidence in her spoken English. She will make a wonderful teaching assistant.”

Joanna has completed her time with the GREAT Project, and is looking forward to all the job prospects that will be available to her as a bi-lingual teacher. She is registered with multiple teaching agencies and is hoping to secure a job in September.