Shannon’s Story

She had attended a Special Needs school because of her moderate learning difficulties, but since leaving Shannon was struggling to find work right for her.

Shannon felt nervous about meeting her Employment Support Officer (ESO), Anita, at their initial meeting. Although Shannon gets anxious meeting new people she realised she needed support with her CV, interview skills and money management. Once signed up to the project, Anita spoke with Shannon about her barriers and goals, and designed a support plan tailored to her needs. Shannon wanted to overcome the barriers she faced to find employment in a care home, a sector she had previous work experience in.

Shannon said about her initial meeting with her GREAT Project ESO:

I didn’t know what to expect.  I was very nervous because I am not very good meeting new people. When I first met Anita, I felt ok, she was nice. I was applying for jobs but wasn’t getting any. I thought why not give it a try.”

Taking a step towards her employment goal, Shannon attended an interview skills session. This workshop covers sourcing interviews, preparing for and learning from interview as well as a mock interview with feedback.

Shannon also met Anita for a one-to-one session to complete a new CV, cover letter writing and job searching. With Anita’s support, Shannon applied for roles in the care sector.

After attending several interviews, Shannon was offered a job with a local care company based in Hinckley. This is a company known to the GREAT project as a bespoke behind the scene tour was arranged by Business in the Community, a GREAT Project delivery partner, last year.

Anita, Shannon’s Employment Support Officer, said:

Shannon was an absolute pleasure to work with as she had a real desire to find work in an area she felt she would excel in. She was determined not to let her disability restrict her and this paid off! I’m so pleased for her especially as she is now in a job she wanted from the start.”


Shannon started her new role in December.

Josh’s Story

He was referred to the GREAT Project by Transitions, through Leicestershire County Council.

On his first meeting with his Employment Support Officer (ESO), Yachna, Josh spoke with enthusiasm about the support he needed to achieve his employment goal. Through his school, Josh had completed two years of work experience at a national supermarket. Josh loved his time working for the supermarket, but had been unsuccessful with subsequent job applications. He wanted the GREAT project to support him with his CV writing and to provide feedback on his previous applications to achieve his dream of a permanent position with this particular supermarket.

Once Josh was signed up to the project he started Work Club straight away. During the sessions at Hinckley library, he received support with his CV, cover letters, interview skills and how to job search efficiently.

With the one-to-one support from Yachna, Josh completed a new CV and they went through the right answer for the questions on the application, providing Josh with tailored support to meet his needs.

Josh was invited for interview by the supermarket and was successful in securing a permanent position and his dream job.

Talking about the impact the Great Project has had on Josh, his mum said:

“It was important to me that Josh felt supported by a professional body and not just by a parent. I felt happy that it improves his chances of getting a job and feel supported. It was lovely to see that Yachna shared our sense of happiness and achievement when Josh told her he got his job.”

Yachna, his ECO said:

“Josh always walked away from our sessions with a smile on his face which made it extremely fulfilling to work with him. When Josh called me to let me know that he got a job at Tesco I couldn’t be more thrilled! He is an absolute inspiration and his dedication and determination to find a job at Tesco was really admirable!”

*pseudonym used

First employability programme for Syrian refugee community group

Last October, the GREAT project attended The Employment Hub partnership event ‘Almostakbol’ (Futures) at Leicester City Hall, supporting the Syrian Refugee community into employment.

Hosted by Star Amal, an organisation who take referrals from The Home Office for the Syrian Refugee community, we went along to showcase the support and opportunities we provide for our participants. We shared our expertise in working with diverse ethnic minority individuals and communities including the Syrian Refugee Community.

12 attendees refereed themselves onto the GREAT Project, and after their initial meeting with an Employment Support Officer (ESO), they signed up to the project.

The GREAT Project ESO’s have designed a bespoke programme, with the support of an Arabic interpreter, working closely with Star Amal to accommodate the needs and barriers of the group.

The group started a 10 week employability programme this month, with interactive sessions to help build and develop the key skills needed to find future employment in the UK.

Gurdip’s Story

He saw the GREAT Project poster at his children’s school and attended the ‘Welcome to GREAT’ introductory session at the school. After finding out more about the benefits and opportunities the project could offer, Gurdip knew the GREAT Project was the right path to achieve his goal of getting back into work.

Gurdip wanted support with getting work ready, and had a one-to-one session with his Employment Support Officer (ESO) covering CV writing, interview skills and how to effectively look for a job. He found this informative which helped Gurdip feel more confident.

Alongside this, Gurdip attended a confidence building course which gave him insight into what opportunities were available and how best to use them to reach his career ambitions. This course is aimed at participants struggling with confidence as it encourages them to talk and engage with one another, bringing them out of their comfort zone.

Following a discussion with his ESO, Gurdip also attended a 10 week construction course with Enstruct, where participants can learn practical skills including brick laying, carpentry and plumbing.

Gurdip also worked with delivery partner, Business in the Community, and attended a behind the scenes tour at a property solutions company. Behind the scenes tours provide a look into the workings of an industry and the job opportunities available, which is can greatly beneficial for participants development.

Accompanied by an Employment Coordinator, Gurdip went on BBC Radio Leicester to discuss his experiences and the support he accessed to encourage other men on to the GREAT Project.

For anyone considering referring themselves to the GREAT Project, Gurdip said:

“I think it’s great to find out what’s out there. Sometimes you need a push in the right direction and the GREAT Project offers that. It’s given me more confidence to believe in what I need to do. My children also think I’m more confident, my oldest daughter has picked up on it.”

Gurdip’s ESO said:

“Gurdip has been really motivated from the start of his journey on the project, attending all activities that we suggested to him. It’s great to see how his confidence regarding his job search has increased. Gurdip has now left the project having completed his CV, being able to apply for jobs and has even been for some interviews. Gurdip is ready and more determined than ever to get back into work.”


Since leaving the GREAT project, Gurdip has put into practice the new skills he’s learnt by securing a job as a Warehouse and Production Operative.

Behind Every GREAT Man Employability Programme

This programme is in conjunction with the projects #BehindEveryGREATMan campaign which launched earlier this year, with the key message of “doing it yourself doesn’t mean doing it alone”.

When asked what employment means to them, one participant said:

“It’s means giving my children things I can’t give them at the moment. I want them to look up to me and remember me as someone who was hard working.”

The six interactive sessions held at Charnwood Museum were designed to help participants build up employability skills to get back into work or move into training. This is complimented by one-to-one support with CV writing, cover letters and job searching.

Five participants completed the programme of workshops covering confidence, employment goals, budgeting, interview skills and managing a return to work. On the final session, participants were presented with their certificates and given a chance to look back on their progress and plan the next steps.

Feedback from the group around attending a programme with other male participants was positive. As the weeks progressed the attendees worked well together, finding it easy to talk to others in the same situation.

Tom found out about the GREAT Project when accessing his local food bank after he lost his job. He’d never heard of the project but was interested in anything that would get him back into employment. Struggling with his confidence and self-esteem, Tom found the employability programme to be a confidence builder, gaining invaluable insight and techniques. It helped Tom being in a group of people in the same position, having the opportunity to be open without the fear of judgement.

Talking about the employability programme, Tom said:

“I went through a stage in my life where I reached rock bottom and this was even before I lost my job, it knocked my confidence and it’s hard to pick yourself up from that. I struggled talking one-on-one, let alone in a group of people, it’s personally helped me massively.”

Tom is now moving on to a 3 day course, focused around confidence with the GREAT Project. Taking away what he’s learnt on the employability programme, he is making positive steps back towards employment.

Poonam’s Story

Before joining the GREAT Project, Poonam was a stay-at-home mum of three and had plenty of work experience in differing industries. However, Poonam had been unemployed since having her third child. With her youngest due to start school in September, she decided now was the time to do something for herself.

“I wanted to do something on my own – everyone knows me as mum or wife, but I wanted to do something for me.”

Poonam knew she wanted to find a role within social care, but felt she didn’t have enough confidence to start looking for jobs. She joined the GREAT Project after hearing about it at her children’s primary school. Poonam soon referred herself with the hopes she’d be able to access support with writing a CV, help with looking for jobs and help to prepare her for interviews.

Poonam soon met with Chantal, a GREAT Project team leader, who created a tailored support plan based on her needs. Poonam began attending sessions on interview techniques, managing return to work and confidence building, all delivered by in-house Employment Coordinators. She also had one-to-one Work Club sessions, where she accessed the support she wanted with writing her CV and cover letter.

Poonam found that not only was her confidence increasing, but the GREAT Project was able to support her with other barriers she faced. As the GREAT Project covers transport costs and can provide childcare, Poonam was able to access all the sessions Chantal recommended to her without the additional worry these issues could have caused. Poonam was able to attend the sessions feeling relaxed; having her expenses covered and her children cared for meant she could completely focus on the task at hand.

Poonam has seen the biggest increase in her confidence, and credits the group working as the reason for this. She feels that working in a team has given her the motivation to speak to others and she now has the confidence to put this into practice and form new friendships.

“I’ve learnt how to talk to strangers; I’ve even approached a lady on her own at the playground and now we go walking together.”

Whilst on the project, Poonam also forged strong friendships with other participants. They all now go for regular walks together after dropping their children at school. They regularly share stories on their time with the project and any advancements they’ve made with their job search.

Reflecting on Poonam’s time with the project, Chantal said:

“It has been great to see how much confidence Poonam now has. She is able to see employment as an achievable goal and with her new found confidence, it won’t be long before she is in work.”

Poonam has completed her time with the project and has taken away the skills she wanted to learn, as well as a new friendship circle.

Brendan’s Story

Brendan, 21, currently lives at home with his parents and his sister and was referred to the GREAT Project by his mum. At the time of joining the project, Brendan wanted to work towards an NVQ in electrical engineering, but as he had not worked before, his mum felt the GREAT Project would be a good place for him to start.

Soon after being referred to the GREAT Project, Brendan met with his Employment Support Officer, Leah. He explained to her that he has Asperger’s and would like help with his confidence and anxiety. Whilst on the project, Brendan took part in all of the activities that were available to him as a participant.

Brendan took part in a three-day confidence building course that encourages participants to work together to overcome challenges and obstacles. The aim of the course is create interaction between the participants, helping them forge bonds and friendships. Challenges are designed in a way which allows the participants individual skillsets to flourish, allowing them to overcome the problem at hand.

Brendan attended sessions on a variety of employability skills, including interview skills, managing returning to work and confidence building. These sessions are delivered by in-house Employment Coordinators and are extremely beneficial in participant’s development. Brendan also received further one-to-one support around interview skills, allowing him to feel more confident when it came to interviews. Other employability sessions that helped Brendan were Work Club, where he was able to work on his CV and cover letter.

Given Brendan’s keen interest in electrical engineering, Leah felt Brendan would benefit from attending Enstruct. Enstruct is one of the project’s delivery partners and offers a 10-week home improvements course, where participants are given a taster in a variety of DIY skills, including electrics, tiling, bricklaying and plumbing. Participants can also work towards obtaining their CSCS card.

Brendan also worked with delivery partner, Business in the Community, and attended two of the behind the scenes tours that were available to him. He visited a local food manufacturer as well as a nationwide logistics company. Behind the scenes tours are beneficial for participants development as it provides them with an inside look into how differing industries work and the opportunities available.

One of the newer offerings the GREAT Project can provide are sessions with the in-house Vocational Rehabilitation Case Officer, Eileen. Brendan went to one of Eileen’s workshops on managing low mood and worry and learnt different ways in which he can help manage his mood.

Brendan utilised everything the project offers and has seen a tremendous improvement in his quality of life. He is now looking forward to putting everything he has learnt into practice by securing a job.

Speaking of his time on the project, Brendan said:

“The project has helped me build and gain confidence, has helped me with my anxiety and has helped me develop useful skills in searching and applying for work.”

Leah said:

“Brendan was an absolute pleasure to support. I’m so glad he took the time to attend everything the project can offer because it has really benefitted him; the change I’ve seen is incredible. I hope that he finds a role soon because he deserves it.”

Going behind the scenes at Leicester City Football Club

The tour of King Power stadium gave the participants an real insight to the club. Starting at the players’ entrance, used by the squad on matchdays, before heading to the media suite where they had an opportunity to take photos.

They continued the tour down to the tunnel, visiting the away changing rooms before they made their way into the home changing rooms, showers and cryotherapy rooms. Participants then had the opportunity to walk pitch side and visit the home dugout.

This eye opening tour finished with a Q & A session and the merchandise manager gave career insights for the Foxes fan shop.

Backing International Men’s Day to celebrate and support men in the community.

Celebrating the diversity and contribution men bring to their families, communities and world; alongside shining a spotlight on positive role models and raising awareness of men’s health and well-being.

International Men’s day is an opportunity to highlight and speak frankly about some of the serious issues affecting men and their wellbeing and how we can make a difference to their lives. Addressing prolific issues that affect men ranging from the prevalence of male suicide, toxic masculinity to men’s mental wellbeing and high workplace deaths.

Leicester based Getting Ready for Employment and Training (GREAT) Project, is in support of International Men’s Day and will be shining a spotlight on the significant positive changes and successes their male participants have made. The GREAT Project is designed to help individuals who are part of families and not currently working, move towards employment or training. The project supports participants to overcome the barriers they face through a holistic variety of sessions and workshops delivered by Employment Coordinators and delivery partner, Business in the Community.

Understanding the importance of reducing mental health issues through the empowerment of obtaining employment, the GREAT Project has been reaching out to male residents of Leicester and Leicestershire through their ‘Behind Every GREAT Man’ campaign.

Looking to encourage participants to believe in themselves and their own abilities to become the person they want to be, and highlighting them as positive role models for their families. Addressing stigma in asking for help by ‘doing it yourself doesn’t mean doing it alone” is also a key aim of the campaign.

Chantal Brotherhood, Team Manager for the GREAT Project, said:

International Men’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to advocate men’s needs and issues to a wider audience. Here at the GREAT Project, we’ve been working this year to promote a campaign targeted at men around what employment means to them and its ok to ask for help, without the fear of judgement. Being in work or training can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing and we want to help individuals in the city and county to believe in themselves and see what they can achieve to reach their employment goals.”

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. For more information, please visit:

The GREAT Project 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.

Aleksandra’s Story

A single parent with two children, Aleksandra suffered with depression and wasn’t sure what steps to take to find the right job.

She was signposted to the GREAT Project by her work coach at the job centre, and at Aleksandra’s initial meeting with her employment support officer (ESO), they discussed the courses and support available to obtain her goal of finding a job. Aleksandra felt positive that the one-to-one support she was receiving from her ESO would help her overcome the difficulties and anxieties she was facing.

Aleksandra attended a 3 day confidence building course and discovered skills she had forgotten she possessed which increased her confidence greatly. This course is aimed at participants that struggle with their confidence and self-esteem as it encourages them to talk and engage with one another, bringing them out of their comfort zone.


Aleksandra reflects on the training she received with the GREAT Project:


I proved to myself that my English is not that bad. The course reminded me about skills I already had but I hadn’t used them for a long time. I had a really great time and had lots of fun, it was a huge step for me.


Alongside this, Aleksandra attended the GREAT Project work club, receiving support in writing her CV completing applications forms and interview preparation.

She felt that the GREAT Project had provided a support system for her, from helping Aleksandra with job searching to exploring other opportunities. Aleksandra found she was happier, with more energy and feeling more optimistic about the future.

After completing her time on the project, Aleksandra found employment at Leicester Royal infirmary as a Combined Services Coordinator.


Speaking of her time on the project, Aleksandra said:

Thank you to my ESO for her patience, optimism and support, she never gave up on me. I would recommend the project to everyone.


Yachna, Aleksandra’s ESO said:

She is an inspirational woman and I am super proud of her and how far she has come in just 6 months. She will be a great asset to her team and I wish her all her all the best in the future!