Zac’s Story

Before joining the GREAT Project, Zac was unemployed and living at home with his parents. Zac’s ultimate goal when joining the project was to find employment but acknowledges he had multiple barriers to work, including lack of confidence, skills and opportunities.

“I was struggling and needed extra support to look for work. I didn’t have much confidence or experience, so I knew I needed help with training and qualifications.”

Zac was referred to the GREAT Project by a housing support officer, who informed him of the opportunities that would be available to him as a participant on the project. When Zac signed up, he quickly met with his Employment Support Officer, Yachna, who spoke with him about his barriers and what he wanted to overcome and achieve.

Whilst on the project, Zac accessed a range of workshops and courses that all supported him work towards his goal. Zac attended work club sessions which helped him write a CV and cover letter, and also supported him when looking for a job. These sessions worked in partnership with the interview skills workshop he attended, which allowed him to prepare for interviews as much as possible. These sessions inform participants about what to expect in different interview scenarios and help them prepare for typical questions they may be asked. He also attended a budgeting workshop, helping him to understand how to manage his money.

One of the courses Zac attended, which had a big impact on his life, was the three day confidence building course. Here, participants are encouraged to work together during activities to solve difficult problems. It aims to build their skills in communication, teamwork and confidence, as well as encourage positive thinking.

Zac also enjoyed the behind the scenes tours he attended with delivery partner, Business in the Community. He visited multiple large organisations in different sectors, giving him an insightful look into the different job roles he could consider working in. Through Business in the Community, Zac also undertook a work placement at a local wholesale manufacturer of desserts and cakes.

Zac said:

“The project has helped build my confidence. I’ve learnt that I’m not alone and there are people out there that will help and support me. The impact it’s made in my life is incredible and people should definitely join. It’s a great environment to be in. The team are all lovely people who support you with whatever they can”

Yachna, Zac’s Employment Support Officer whilst on the project, said:

“Watching Zac grow in confidence whilst he’s been on the project has been amazing. When I first met him, his self-esteem was so low, he couldn’t even look at me. His confidence has grown so much that he now feels confident meeting new people. I’m so proud of how far he’s come and wish him all the best for the future.”

Zac has now successfully completed his time on the project and has secured a part-time role at a restaurant local to him.

Anne’s Story

Before Anne joined the GREAT Project, she had been out of work for a while and had not long suffered a bereavement. Her work coach at her local Jobcentre thought the GREAT Project would be a good place for her to start.

Anne soon met with her Employment Support Officer (ESO), Diana, and discussed what she felt her barriers were. She outlined her barriers as lack of job skills and qualifications, and simply not knowing what job opportunities were out there. Anne was referred to the FAST employment programme that in-house Employment Coordinator, Kenton, and Diana were delivering. During the FAST employment programme, participants cover topics such as confidence building, interview skills, budgeting and how to manage returning to work.

Anne also attended Work Club sessions, where she was able to create a CV and cover letter, as well as learn how to effectively look for a job.

Whilst on the project, Anne also met with delivery parent, Business in the Community, and attended pre-placement training. During this training, she learnt how to prepare for placements and interviews, the importance of first impressions, interview skills and other aspects relevant to her placement. After the pre-placement training, Anne then went on to complete a work placement at a national supermarket.

After completing her time with the project, Anne moved into further training, studying computer software skills through an adult resource centre in her local community.

Speaking of her time on the project, Anne said:

“I wasn’t sure what to expect at first but the project was very useful in helping me gain confidence in myself. It gave me more belief in myself too. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, which made me feel at ease.”

Harpreet’s Story

Before joining the GREAT Project, Harpreet was a stay-at-home mum looking after her young son. Although Harpreet has a degree in fine art print making, she felt she lacked the confidence she needed to find work. Harpreet came into contact with the GREAT Project through her local children’s centre, and explained that she wanted help to build her confidence and general support to help her get back into the world and find a job.

“I didn’t know such services actually existed. I was so glad and happy that I actually took the step to find out what the GREAT Project was all about.”

Harpreet was soon introduced to her Employment Support Officer, Leah, and together, they devised a plan tailored to Harpreet’s needs. She soon began attending the various workshops on offer, including sessions on interview skills and returning to work – covering best practices, what to expect and making a good impression. Harpreet also worked with delivery partner, Business in the Community, and attended a behind the scenes tour at a multinational retail organisation based in Leicester.

Harpreet also attended a three-day confidence building course. Here, participants need to communicate and work together to overcome various tasks. This encourages them to speak freely and form bonds with one another. It’s also good to help them understand what qualities they hold, such as being a good leader or being able to think strategically. Harpreet also utilised the childcare provision the GREAT Project provides, making the sessions far more accessible for her, as childcare was one of her barriers.

Harpreet feels that joining the project benefitted her greatly; she learnt how to converse with others, gained confidence when it came to interviews and learnt what skills she already possessed.

Reflecting on the project, Harpreet said:

“If you’re considering joining a programme like this, then join the GREAT Project. Learning more about the skills I already possessed and talking to others in a similar situation helped me no end. Take the step to join, because there’s nothing to lose but plenty to gain.”

Leah, speaking of Harpreet’s time on the project, said:

“Harpreet is a perfect example of what can be achieved with the GREAT Project’s support. She started as a stay-at-home mum and has now secured a role at one of Leicester’s largest organisations. She knew what she wanted to achieve and worked hard to make it happen, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

Harpreet completed her time with the project and secured a paid role at the retail organisation she visited.

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.

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.

Overcoming health barriers to get back into work

Rickin ran his own business and mentored in a college until serious illness changed his life significantly. He was diagnosed with Lymphoma and underwent surgery on his brain, leaving him with short term memory loss, poor problem solving, impulsivity and difficulty with concentration.

Rickin referred himself to the project to seek support with finding his way back to employment. He identified a range of barriers including his health, a lack of confidence, lack of job search skills and worrying about how going back to work would affect his benefits.

Once he joined the project, Rickin was able to access support from various GREAT partners. He received one-to-one support and had help managing his sleeping pattern, which he was struggling with. He attended work clubs, where he learned about interview techniques and how to write a CV.

Having previously been a mentor, Rickin has a passion for helping and supporting others. He is now exiting the project onto an Induction to Counselling course, and is confident about his chances of finding work in the near future.

“I recommended the GREAT Project to everyone, because it helped me and it shall help you.”

Build your confidence to get into work and training

As a single parent with two children, Emma had started to feel isolated in her own community. There were a number of barriers that she felt were limiting her from finding work: looking after her family, lack of experience, not knowing how to search for jobs and, most importantly, a lack of confidence.

“My self-confidence was that low, I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want to do anything with my time, and when they started me on the GREAT Project it was a point of “’This will do you some good’”

Emma was referred to the GREAT Project by her family support worker. Her original goal was to exit the project into job searching, so that she could secure work in the future. She accessed a range of support services, including Work Clubs and a behind-the-scenes tour at M&S, but possibly the most significant support that Emma accessed was the Total Commitment Training (TCT).

TCT is a three-day programme which helps to build resilience, reflection and relationships. Through various activities and a final activity, participants build self-confidence, improve their focus and develop positive thinking techniques. Emma was originally very anxious about joining in the group activities but she threw herself into the training and ended up enjoying it a lot more than she thought!

“All my shyness is completely gone… I need that confidence to raise my children, I need confidence to be able to go out of the house, school meetings, other meetings… the confidence part goes through all your whole life”

As well as building her skills and confidence, Emma made a lot of friends through the project. One of her friends was registered disabled and supported by a personal assistant from a care company. The PA was leaving the company, so Emma applied for the vacancy. She interviewed successfully and was thrilled to be appointed as the PA for her friend.

Emma’s confidence has soared, and she’s now looking towards the next stage in her career. She was also elected the Liberal Democrat councillor for her area, so she can put her new-found confidence into improving not only her own life and that of her family, but also the lives of those in her local area.

“[I]really enjoyed doing the project. And the experience was amazing. If I could do it again I would.”

Donate your spare smart clothes for GREAT

Donate your spare smart clothes for GREAT

One of the ways GREAT is helping our project participants to get ready for work is by preparing them for the interview process.

Successful interviews depend on knowing how to present yourself to prospective employers, and a part of that is making sure that interviewees are dressed appropriately.

However, not all of our participants can afford to buy brand new clothes, so we’re collecting formal clothes that we can give to interviewees ahead of their interviews.

What we’re looking for

We’re looking for people to donate the following, for men and women, in all sizes:

  • Complete smart suits
  • Smart trousers
  • Smart jackets
  • Shirts and blouses

Any donated clothes which aren’t used by the GREAT participants will be passed on to local charities.

If you’d like to donate something, please contact Suzi Hailes, GREAT Employment Support Officer: