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Dan's Story: "I left school with no qualifications, now I'm a key worker in my dream job"

Dan Graham left school with no qualifications, no career path and no idea what his future would be like.

He began to experience anxiety and mild depression after years of barely attending school led him to feel “lost” and “unreliable”.

But one of the few things Dan was passionate about was his hometown football club – Newcastle United.

It was his work coach at Gateshead Job Centre who suggested the Magpies’ official charity arm, Newcastle United Foundation, would be the perfect place to get his life back on track.

Dan signed up to join the charity’s Prince’s Trust Team programme, a free course for young people aged between 16 and 25 who are currently not in employment, education or training, which begins again in September and open to applications now.

“I hated school and felt lost when I left that I had no idea where to go or what to do next,” said Dan, now 19.

“I basically never went to school – my attendance was really poor and I found it difficult to change how I felt about it. But unfortunately, it meant I missed out on earning qualifications or career advice so when I left, I felt completely alone.

“But with Newcastle United Foundation, I found a path to follow and the Prince’s Trust course made an incredible difference for me – it changed how I thought about myself and what I could achieve.”

The Foundation’s Community team, who coordinate the course on behalf of the Prince’s Trust, were blown away by Dan’s commitment to the 12-week project, which he turned up to every day without fail.

During the course, Dan, from Newcastle, took the opportunity to work on himself and the skills that would make him more employable in the future. Highlights for him included taking the lead on community work, helping his teammates learn how to use different tools and leading a presentation on mental health in men aged 16 to 25.

“I didn’t feel my best mentally when I started the course,” added Dan. “But I noticed things were slowly starting to improve the more I found a routine in coming to St. James’ Park or out into the community for our sessions.

“I really enjoyed the laidback atmosphere wherever we were. The learning is practical, which I prefer to the traditional sit down, listen and follow a textbook sort of work I’d do in school, it’s so much hands-on.

“You also work as a team, which can seem daunting at first to meet new people, but it’s a good opportunity to make friends and get used to what it’s like to have colleagues in your future job.”

Dan completed the Prince’s Trust Team Programme, earning a Level 1 in Employability, Teamwork and Community Skills. It was then that Dan decided he wanted a career working with people and joined Newcastle United Foundation’s NE1 Works project.

The Community team were able to guide Dan through applications and job interviews, and he successfully secured his door supervisor licence before beginning with Wetherspoons on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The global COVID-19 pandemic brought an abrupt end to his work, however it was at the height of the outbreak that Dan proudly became a key worker in the region, using his licence to secure a security contract at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Gateshead.

“I’m really proud to have been a key worker during the pandemic and it’s something I will be able to look back on and feel like I did my part for the community,” said Dan.

“I’ve travelled across the North East over the summer, working at different venues and places, including fast food restaurants and building sites. It’s been an experience I wouldn’t have had without the help of the team at Newcastle United Foundation.”

To find more information about the Newcastle United Foundation Princes Trust Course click here. 

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