Julia, 22, from Edinburgh graduated with a first-class honours degree in Management and Marketing and aimed to get a job within the hospitality sector, particularly looking into hotels and event management. But with this industry being severely hampered by the pandemic, Julia found that her skills and experience didn’t match any of the limited jobs that were available.

The lack of routine and challenging economic outlook began to take its toll on her mental health and so she was relieved and happy when she gained a place on The Prince’s Trust Get into Retail programme – aimed at helping young people gain the confidence, skills, and experience to get into work.

She said: “On the surface I do not face many barriers to achieving my aims and goals, but I have struggled with mental health issues throughout my life, specifically anxiety and occasional depressive episodes. Being unemployed for so many consecutive months after my graduation severely impacted by confidence and combined with a lack of routine quickly became detrimental to my mental health.

“Given the nature of the pandemic and the effect on the hospitality industry, there was a lack of employment opportunities at all levels. The only jobs that were available were in retail and as my previous work experience was rooted in hospitality I wasn’t as attractive a candidate compared to the other applicants. Then my work coach at the job centre told me about The Prince’s Trust Get into Retail programme with M&S. This looked ideal as it would provide me with a routine, help raise my confidence and allow me to gain actual work experience in retail.”

Julia not only enjoyed the practical aspects of the course, but she found the social side of it extremely beneficial. She looked forward to the online sessions each day and getting to know and chatting to other young people who were in the same position as her.

The sessions were both light and informative when they needed to be and overall were just fantastic. It’s so easy to feel isolated when all the usual things you would be doing are off limits or in my case with university – finished. The placement gave me valuable experience – transferrable skills and experience – and I was able to build on these when I gained a contract with M&S.

“I want to continue to work in retail and save up some money for any future career change into a more management focused role. I’m not exactly sure where I see myself in the future, but one of the things that I’ve learned through my work with The Trust is that’s okay. There is more than one route to where you want to go and I’m now confident that I’ll get there.”