A Dover man has transformed his life after our unique back to work training scheme gave him the self-belief, confidence and relevant experience to land a dream apprenticeship.

Josh Francis, 23, is now four months into his trainee ICT engineer role with The Port of Dover – Europe’s busiest and most successful ferry port – but it was only made possible following a successful Change Direction programme run by UKSA.

The four-week course for 16 to 24 year olds seeking to move off benefits and into employment involved a two week residential here at Cowes made up of marine industry workshops and water based activities, followed by another two weeks of hands-on work experience in Dover.

Josh explained: “I’d been unemployed for 18 months and felt really low and worthless, so when my local Job Centre Plus recommended Change Direction last summer I jumped at the chance. It was brilliant fun and I learnt so much in a short space of time. My communication skills improved and I became a lot more assured around new people, plus I discovered a new-found confidence around the water, having not had much to do with boats before.

“The work experience with the Marine team was fun and varied too and I got stuck into cleaning and maintaining the launch boats, working in the engine room on the dredges, as well as a stint on the cruise ships. I was made to feel like a proper and contributing member of the team and it definitely rekindled my determination to get a permanent job.

“Consequently, I did some voluntary work at the Port of Dover as soon as the course finished and shortly after applied for a position at the marina. I just missed out but the HR lady put me forward for the ICT apprenticeship – and I haven’t looked back since!”

Mark Burton, Head of ICT at The Port of Dover, said: “On first meeting Josh, I was impressed with his enthusiasm and the positive effect that the work placement scheme had clearly had on him. He had a real desire to get in to work and generally turn his life around, the result of which was that we were delighted to offer him the ICT Apprenticeship position.

“Whilst he is still fairly new to the role, Josh is showing an aptitude for ICT and is progressing really well in a key department for the business. Over the next year I certainly see Josh becoming more technically astute and able to contribute more to the ICT team and to the organisation as a whole.

“Josh has already worked in our Port Control building – the nerve centre of all vessel movements in the harbour – and covered the ICT Helpdesk on his own for periods of time delivering great customer service as well as technical ability. He is enjoying the interesting and diverse use of ICT that the Port of Dover has to offer, which has seen him assisting with repairs to desktop computers through to replacing radar arrays.”

Simon Davies, UKSA’s Director of Youth Development, added: “We’re delighted for Josh and wish him a rewarding and lengthy career. He is living proof that In Change Direction we have created a course that really inspires young people, gives them essential life and work skills, and helps them be creative with their job search. It’s completely unique and is already a proven success story, creating truly transformational opportunities.”