Peter, 23, from Leeds, was unemployed for five years before finding work at M&S through the Kickstart Scheme. Kickstart offers 16 to 24 year olds a six month paid job with an employer, funded by the Government, to help them gain experience and build their skills.

“I’ve been looking for work since I left school five years ago. I was mainly looking for jobs in shops, but they wouldn’t take me on because I didn’t have the experience. I also didn’t have the money to learn how to drive, so couldn’t get to some jobs.

“I was able to volunteer at a charity shop for a year, but the pandemic ended that opportunity. I was still looking for jobs, but retailers were furloughing lots of people at the time, so it was hard to find places that were hiring.

“Being out of work for so long was taxing on my mental health. My confidence took a really big hit.

“I found out about Kickstart in March 2021 through the job centre and saw it as an opportunity to finally get a job. I interviewed for a Customer Assistant role at M&S and started working there in April.

The Kickstart placement at M&S has been brilliant. At first, I had a lack of confidence in myself, so I would struggle to do tasks without asking people if I was doing them right. It was a learning curve, but now my confidence has come on leaps and bounds, and I just crack on with my work.

“I’ve learnt a lot of skills working as a Customer Assistant in both the food hall and clothing department, like organising stock, dealing with difficult customers and working the tills.

Peter is receiving wraparound employability support from The Prince’s Trust on his Kickstart placement.

“We’ve done sessions on topics like confidence building and managing money. The second one gave me a new outlook on how to budget. I haven’t had to budget before, because I’ve spent a long time without money coming in.

“With my confidence and self-esteem increasing from work, I’ve picked up my guitar and painting again for the first time in years. I enjoyed being creative back in school before I was unemployed, but then I was so down on myself I stopped doing things I enjoyed.”

“My brother hadn’t seen me in a few months because of the pandemic, and when we met up recently he said I’d changed so much since starting the Kickstart placement at M&S, it was like meeting a different person.”