This year our winner is... Thomas Pemberton
"If you'd have told me before I got involved with The Prince's Trust that I'd land the job I'm in now and be doing so much better for myself, I wouldn't have believed you."
Thomas, aged 22, from Blackburn, was homeless at the age of 18 and realised that he was heading down the wrong path, and mixing with people who had a negative influence.
"My teenage years were hard for me and I was often in trouble. I was misunderstood and never felt that I got the support I needed for my mental health and learning difficulties. I wasn’t in education and things were tough, so I would find myself having arguments with my parents and being out on the streets.
“I knew I had to make a change in myself for the positive, so I got help from a local homeless charity called Nightsafe, who told me about The Prince’s Trust. Little did I know that with effort and hard work I would be in the position that I am today.”
In February 2018, Thomas took part in The Trust’s four-week Get into NHS Hospital Services programme, run in partnership with the East Lancashire Hospital Trust, and worked within different departments around the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital. This allowed him to gain experience in the healthcare industry, alongside building his confidence and learning skills for interviews.
Thomas said: “It was a whole new world entering the work environment and I soon discovered that I enjoyed being part of a team, especially in the laundry department where it was a physical job.”
Thomas took part in employability days as part of the programme, where he learnt about communication, teamwork, reliability, and resilience skills.
He added: “I worked really hard during my placement and I was over the moon when I was offered work only two weeks into the programme. It meant so much and I’ve now progressed from part-time, and I’m now in full-time employment. I’ve even managed to move into a property with my girlfriend.”
Since then Thomas has been mentoring other young people who have come through the programme and spoke at the Movement to Work Youth Summit at the Houses of Parliament in 2019. He has even been commended by The High Sheriff of Lancashire for his achievements.
Thomas has never missed a single shift in the two years he’s been at the East Lancashire Hospital Trust. He said: “My favourite part about work is doing something useful with myself every day. Some of my friends have been made redundant during the pandemic, and it’s helped me a lot this year to be kept occupied with my job.”
Meet our award finalists:
After a series of setbacks shattered Josie’s dreams of studying at university, she picked herself up and broke through her own personal barriers to become a qualified youth worker. She is now working in a job that she loves, spends her time helping others and has a great support network around her.
In her final year of school, Josie, aged 24, from Treorchy, was in a difficult relationship that had a terrible impact on her self-esteem. Around the same time, Josie’s relationship with her parents was deteriorating and they were constantly arguing. In the same year that things were getting tricky at home, Josie found out that she was pregnant.
“It was a total shock. I had wanted to end the relationship, but now the prospect of being a single mother at 18 was really daunting. I was completely broken, I felt like I had no-one to turn to, and I blamed myself for everything that had happened.”
When Josie made the brave decision to end the relationship, her self-confidence was at its lowest ebb. She struggled to leave the house and was too afraid to leave her son with anyone.
“I didn’t believe that I deserved to achieve my goals or find a job I wanted anymore. I simply had no resilience left.”
Josie was eventually referred to The Prince’s Trust Explore programme, a programme to help 16-25-year olds to re-engage in education, training or employment through confidence building activities. During her first week on Explore, Josie had a huge breakthrough. She became an integral member of the group and was soon encouraging other young people to step out of their comfort zone, all the while working on her own confidence, trust and self-belief.
After completing the programme, Josie started to volunteer in her local area. Starting with the local youth club, she built up connections before volunteering with the Youth Engagement and Participation Service (YEPS).
Ryan Strong from the Youth Engagement and Participation Service said “YEPS began working in Treorchy in April 2019, offering post-16 support in the area. Any success from these projects has been in large part down to the contribution of Josie in her time as a volunteer. Her incredible knowledge of the Treorchy area and the relationship she has with the local young people played a vital role in establishing our provision here.”
While volunteering for YEPS, Josie completed her Level 2 and 3 qualifications, and was soon offered a paid position as a detached youth support worker.
Josie’s future is now looking much brighter.
After overcoming mental health challenges and a disrupted education, Olivia is now thriving as a Healthcare support worker for the NHS – working in the same ward that her mum had previously been admitted to.
Olivia experienced significant mental and physical health challenges while she was at school which meant that she often missed classes as she was too unwell to attend. She struggled with juggling medical appointments, exams and awaiting surgery.
With her confidence low and not getting the support she needed from her school, Olivia decided to leave education early to focus on her health and ended up having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help with her anxiety and depression. Although it took her a while to get better, she began to look at things in a more positive way.
She said: “School was quite a difficult time for me, I had health conditions that weren’t under control and awaiting major surgery on my jaw. I decided to leave school early to focus on my health and I then realised I may never be able to go to university or college due to my grades and although I was upset, I accepted it. But with the support from my family and friends I started to look at life in a more positive light. I don’t struggle as bad as I did before, but I do know if I do, I have my family, friends and my work family, who since the beginning have shown me nothing but unconditional support.”
Olivia worked part-time in a children’s activity/play centre and continued to support and help in the family home due to her mum’s illness.
After seeing an advert for a Prince’s Trust course run in partnership with NHS Scotland and Dundee & Angus College to support young people to gain the skills and experience needed to work in the NHS, Olivia decided to apply. She was successful in gaining a place and completed the six-week programme of training.
Olivia quickly flourished, especially during her placement on a Gastroenterology ward. After completing the programme, she secured a job as a Healthcare Support Worker in the same Haematology Ward that her mum had previously been admitted to.
Olivia has now been in the role for almost a year and was given approval by her Senior Charge Nurse to progress onto the Nursing programme which will allow Olivia to become a Nurse through a vocational route, rather than an academic one.
After successfully applying, she has now started a HNC Care and Administrative Practice Programme at college, which will allow her to enter 2nd year of university next year.
She added: “My mum had been ill for a while and received her diagnosis just over a year ago. That had an impact on me and my family as we had already lost our dad to cancer. It was a shock to all of us, but we were able to support one another.
“I’m really excited about my future. I’ve started my Nursing studies and I never thought I would have so many options or a future with my dream career. I have so many forms of support around me, and I would not be where I am if it weren’t for The Trust, Dundee and Angus College or NHS.”
About the sponsor
We would like to say a huge thank you to Homesense for sponsoring the Young Achiever Award.
Homesense’s support of The Prince's Trust Awards since 2017 has made a real difference to the lives of thousands of young people across the UK, inspiring and motivating young people to achieve their best in life.
Find out more about our partnership here.