An injury meant Andy Jones was moved from active fire fighting duties at Stockton Heath Fire Station into a Community Safety role. Through this he found out about The Prince’s Trust Team programme and volunteered to help while he recovered. He talks here about his experiences.

"When I first arrived, the Team had already completed their residential course and I was surprised what a family unit they were. This obviously made it difficult to integrate and be accepted during the first week."

"Being from the disciplined background of the armed forces and fire service I think my initial approach may have come of a shock to some team members including the training staff. The first week went well and I was enjoying my new working routine and learning about The Prince’s Trust and what they do — including all new street lingo, songs in the charts and a new meaning to time keeping!"

I’ve never worked in a youth environment before and quickly found it rewarding (but as the experienced staff will know also frustrating at times).

"A highlight was the community project — I could tell the team truly believed in what they were doing and this could be seen in the quality of their work. It was good to watch them discover their individual skills and implement these in providing a successful end result of a freshly decorated and homely community hub."

"During my time here we have had some brilliant road trips including Tatton Park, various fire stations and an unforgettable trip to West Kirby. We told the team we were going to the beach but horizontal rain with a six degree wind chill wasn’t quite what they had in mind... Despite this, the team were out there braving the elements together and I truly believe that in these circumstances — when comfort zones are broken — real character building exists. I’m sure when they were drying off in the warm, eating their fish and chips, they were glad to be there, I know I was!"

"By the time work placements were allocated I had got to know the team members quite well and had now been accepted (finally). I felt proud of them when visiting work placements, seeing how professional they were and respectful to customers. I saw a different side to all of them and this was very rewarding. I was delighted to hear some of the team had been offered jobs off the back of work placements, reinforcing the importance of The Prince’s Trust scheme and its effects on self-esteem."

"Nicky and Lou the Team Leaders have opened my eyes to the real rewards of youth work and have educated me about different processes in the caring environment that I previously wasn’t aware of. They have also changed my way of thinking in some cases and I believe they have actually made me a better person for it - in regards to patience, diplomacy and especially respect. I am in awe of both of them because no matter what happens they support their students unconditionally which is amazing."

As operational fire fighters we save lives on a daily basis. But after the weeks I’ve spent here, whether it’s from drug and alcohol use, trouble with the law or more serious problems I believe The Prince’s Trust saves lives too

"I’ve been proud to be a part of it. I feel like the team, and its staff, have taught me more than I could have taught them. So thanks"

Fire Fighter Andy Jones 0917, Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service