As I was driving this week, I switched on the radio and caught a few minutes of a phone-in programme hosted by Victoria Derbyshire. The subject was the requirement for those on Job Seeker’s Allowance to take part in work experience. Not unexpectedly, in the few minutes that I listened, callers contributed a range of views and experiences. One aspect was mentioned by several callers and which appears to affect a good proportion of inexperienced young people seeking their first job and also those with (considerable) experience but who find themselves out of work for an extended period. It was suggested that, whilst providing work experience and a few new skills can help someone to be more attractive to potential employers, the current work preparation programmes pay insufficient attention or completely ignore what can be for many a core problem – a lack or loss of motivation/confidence/self-belief.
This reminded me of recent conversations that I have had with Neville Gaunt, an experienced entrepreneur who, like me and many others, wishes to do something to help those in this situation so they can gain work or start a business. We also believe all of us can gain from building confidence so that when we are faced with those ‘Can’t do’ moments we are enabled to make them into ‘Can do’ ones instead. One of Neville’s businesses, MindFit, specialises in this kind of personal development and I know that many individuals, including micro and small business owners, testify to the fundamental benefits they have experienced.
Whilst I have not yet had the benefit of the Mind Fit process, what they do chimes with my own transforming experience when, as a 15/16 year old, I was preparing to take my O levels (that dates me!). On leaving primary school I had been near the top of the class in maths, but after missing a fair number of days over the first two years at secondary school due to ill health and some weak teacher support, I soon got left behind, particularly in maths and Sciences. In fact, during the first four years of secondary I failed every end of year exam in those subjects. As a result, I then believed I could not do these subjects. I wrote off the ambition of becoming an architect because I was clueless about trigonometry. My future prospects appeared to me to be ‘hopeless’. But the summer going into my O level year was to be the single, biggest turning point of my life. First and fundamentally a spiritual change, but which is not the subject of this post and it would be inappropriate to expand on that here. It is necessary though to mention it, as the subsequent change in my maths ability and other achievements that followed were fuelled by this faith. That autumn, my church youth group leader, who was an unemployed maths teacher and to whom I will forever be indebted, offered to provide, at no charge, half a dozen one hour lessons. I simply remember that in each lesson I grasped a new area of maths. This was a totally foreign experience to me. To learn something in one lesson and to be able to do it! To the amazement of my school maths teacher of five years, I then passed my first maths exam (the ‘mock’ O level). As the cliché goes, ‘the rest is history’. ‘Can’t Do became ‘Can Do’.
Do you have a comparable, transforming story to share?