Lorry-loads of determination on employability day

28 June 2019 

Getting ahead in life takes determination, and 22-year-old HGV driver, Paul McCarthy from Abingdon, has it in lorry-loads.

In just 18 months, Paul has earned the keys to a 32-tonne HGV – as well as those to a new home in nearby Sutton Courtenay. He’s due to move in any minute now with his nearly two year old daughter, Primrose and partner, Hannah.

And on Friday 28 June, ERSA’s ‘Employability Day’ and his birthday, he also met with Baroness Buscombe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Work and Pensions to explain how he achieved his employment aims in under 12 months – and even showed her what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a 30-metre lorry!

In late 2017, Paul was feeling frustrated. He enjoyed his work as a labourer for local firm Drayton Construction and wanted to save up to move out of his parents’ home into his own place. Getting his specialist licence so that he could progress within the organisation, driving heavy loads to construction sites around the area, would help him meet his goal more quickly. But the HGV licence was pretty pricey.

Fortunately, he discovered that his housing association, Sovereign, was able to offer grants for education and training, and so in December 2017, Paul approached Shay Abdul, an employment and training officer at Sovereign, to ask whether he might be eligible for financial help. 

Shay explained: “At Sovereign we don’t just support people into work, we also help them if they want to progress further. I asked Paul to commit to funding half of the licence fee himself, as well as passing two parts of a theory test in order to access the grant. We shook on it, and less than a year later, Paul came back to me, his side of the bargain complete.

“We enrolled him on the category C course, and he passed his test with flying colours. Being able to offer this kind of support is what Sovereign’s employment and training service is all about, as well as boosting people’s confidence, helping to smarten up CVs, do interview practice and more.”

Since then, Paul’s gone from strength to strength, saving a deposit for a house with his partner, who works as an accounts assistant.

“We’ve been living with my parents, which has been a real help for our saving,” Paul explained. “But the shine of living together wears off quite quickly, however well you get on! We’ve been really looking forward to finding somewhere for our little family.

“Boosting from my job as a labourer to driving the trucks has meant that we’re now able to get our own home. We can’t wait to move in.”

Lords Minister, Baroness Buscombe said: “I’m pleased to have seen first-hand today the excellent support that Sovereign has provided to Paul. And I am encouraged to know that they, and other housing associations, are supporting more people like him to get on in the workplace and fulfil their other life ambitions.

“This Government has supported a record number of people into work which means that it is no longer just about getting a job – it’s about people getting the role and the progression that they want.”

Con Kelleher from Drayton Construction, who hosted the visit, showing the Baroness around the construction business, which employees 95 local people, said: “Having the right people with the right skills to carry out the work safely and efficiently, is everything. We have an extensive training program, but we think Paul is one of the first of our young employees to grasp an opportunity and take it, helping himself up the ladder of success, with a new job role and a future full of promise.”