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James’s Story: ‘I’d given up hope of working after my brain injury… but I’ve been supported to land my dream job in Covid testing analysis’

The life James knew as a teenager slipped away in an instant when he sustained a brain injury. Recovery to regain independence would be gruelling, but of all the new challenges James was facing, it was rebuilding his self-confidence that proved the hardest.

Now, with the support of Newcastle United Foundation’s Employability team and Newcastle Building Society, James is leading the way in England Covid testing analysis and employed in the industry he always dreamt of, but thought was beyond his reach.

“After my brain injury, I had given up hope of working in a scientific job – I just didn’t see it as a possibility anymore,” James said.

“Before that happened, I had earned qualifications in pharmaceuticals and had the ambition and intention to continue on that path towards working in a scientific role. But everything changed for me since my brain injury and I was very low on confidence.

“I ended up being unemployed for nine years and it was very challenging to stay motivated – even to get up on a morning was difficult because there was nothing to get up for while I was unemployed.”

Things began eventually began to change for James at a jobs fair at St. James’ Park, hosted by Newcastle United Foundation – the official charity arm of Newcastle United – alongside Newcastle City Council and Skills Hub Newcastle. It was here that James met Rizi, a Project Officer within the Foundation’s NU Futures team.

“Rizi was on one of the stalls at the jobs fair and signed me up to the NE1 Works programme,” James added.

“At first, I doubted what I could achieve, but the Foundation supported me to take part in activities and skills sessions to help with CV writing, personal and social skills and interview techniques.

“In spring 2020, I become close to entering employment, but the first lockdown meant the process couldn’t continue and it hit me quite hard. It knocked my confidence again. But the Foundation team were there to support me.

“In lockdown, the Foundation and Newcastle Building Society held a series of really useful and inspirational workshops online. They helped me to believe in myself again and working with these kind of people has improved my skills, my employability and kept me motivated.

“I had nine years of unemployment after my brain injury, but after falling in with the Foundation, just eight months on and I’ve landed my dream job as a healthcare science associate.”

James now helps process up to 80,000 Covid-19 tests a day in the UK’s first integrated Covid hub in Gateshead’s Baltic Park. Here, he applies his skills and passion for science to help slow the spread of the virus by analysing the tests arriving from across the North East, north Cumbria and Yorkshire.

“I’m continuing to receive support from the Foundation and my occupational therapist who have been working together to get the best outcomes for me,” James said. “My recovery and treatment is ongoing and I know I can count on the support of everyone at Newcastle United Foundation in the future.

“That means everything to me – because of generous organisations like them and Newcastle Building Society, I’ve gone from unemployed to everything I’ve achieved now. It’s made all in the difference in my life.”

Newcastle United Foundation offer a range of employability support for young people aged 18 to 29 who are not currently in employment, education or training.

Participants develop personal and social skills on the programme through one-to-one support, targeted employer events, personal development workshops, job search and CV writing, as well as work placements and volunteering.

For more information on employability support with Newcastle United Foundation and Newcastle Building Society, visit our Careers and Training page.

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