At the age of six, Joel Fields, 18, from Birmingham, and his four brothers and sisters were put into foster care. But, thanks to The Prince's Trust, he was able to turn his life around and even went on win a Celebrate Success award.
For 10 years Joel was moved from one foster home to another. Then, at 17, he was put into Independent Living accommodation, which helps young people without any family support to learn to look after themselves.
"We were aged five, six, seven, eight and 10. There were three more that stayed at home. The five of us started off together but then we were split up. That’s where my journey started spiraling out of control."
He’d started a college course in music and media, which meant he was often in the studio. He loved spending time working with musicians. But, just as it looked like his life was finally stabilising, he ran out of money. His new address meant a longer journey to college and he couldn’t manage the increased fares.
Soon afterwards, Joel was told about The Prince’s Trust Make Your Mark programme by the warden where he was living. Make Your Mark is an employability initiative delivered in partnership with Marks & Spencer to equip unemployed young people with the skills and confidence they need to secure jobs.
"Everything happened very quickly. I was invited to a taster day at Marks & Spencer in Solihull but I nearly didn’t go because I bought a pasty before I got there and it spilled on me! I was worried what people would think."
Luckily, Joel did go and was invited onto the training programme and, over four weeks, he unexpectedly fell in love with retail.
"I found myself on women’s wear and shoes! I didn’t know they could be so much fun. I loved answering queries and talking with the older customers. I learned so much about feet – it made me appreciate my own, quite honestly!
"It was a really busy summer working in the store and because it was busy I was learning all the time."
At the end of the programme everyone on the course took part in a celebration day to reflect on what they’d achieved in such a short amount of time.
"At the celebration day, someone asked me how I felt and I sang ‘Time of my Life’."
Joel’s infectious enthusiasm soon had Marks & Spencer knocking at his door with the offer of a full-time customer service job in its new food store in Shirley.
"I was amazed. They put me behind a desk on Customer Service. I’d seen people doing desk jobs before, but I never dreamt it could be me one day. I love my job and I hope I’m a role model to other young people. The team here is my new family.
"To make it even better I won The Prince’s Trust Celebrate Success West Midlands’ Young Achiever award and was invited to the national ceremony at the Odeon Leicester Square earlier this year. It was red carpet event with celebrities everywhere – Ant and Dec, Kevin Spacey, Gok Wan to name a few – but they acted like I was famous!
“Every single story I heard that day touched my heart – amazing young people who have turned their lives around. When I was made Samsung’s Young Achiever of the Year, I couldn’t believe it. It was insane!”
Joel has certainly earned his title as a young achiever, getting on so well with the The Prince’s Trust that he’s even recommended courses to his family.
"One of my brothers has done Get into Retail with TK Maxx and he now works there, and my sister also did Make Your Mark.
"I’m in a good place and my dream is to become a Make Your Mark trainer. They did so much for me, and I‘d like to do the same for other young people."