La’Jay Taylor was in danger of losing his home and feared he would have a breakdown if he couldn’t find a job.
His criminal record made it almost impossible to get work.
Then he found The Prince’s Trust – and now he now balances his job at a café with mentoring young people. He also goes back into prisons to inspire people with his story – and show them how The Prince’s Trust can help after their release.
He said: “When I left prison, I started doing everything I could to find a job. I looked online, went to the job centre and to job fairs. Applications can take a long time – you often attach your CV and then also have to type all the information again into an application form.
“It’s very repetitive and you rarely hear anything back. Employers are often so focused on experience – but I think that sometimes it’s beneficial to come to something afresh, with new ideas and creativity.
“As an ex-offender, I felt that as soon as I ticked that box I was discounted. I wasn’t given a chance to show my skills or personality and you’re banned from applying to a lot of jobs.
“I worked as a bus driver before going into prison but couldn’t go back into it afterwards.
“My life was a disaster at this point. I was on the verge of losing my house and I was stressed out trying to find a job. It was hard.”
La’Jay, pictured above, had seen posters for The Prince’s Trust in prison and, in May 2019, he signed up for the Future Leaders programme, which focuses on personal development, finding confidence and essential employability skills.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I just wanted to do something constructive, but I found the programme very motivating and uplifting. It made me see that even though I’d been to prison, I still had something to offer.
“They reminded me of my self-worth and gave me back my self-confidence.”
La’Jay then went to Get Hired, also run by The Prince’s Trust, which brings together employers and young people, without the need for a CV.
“I kept going to Get Hired events until I found a job,” he said. “The events were useful because employers could get a feel of potential employees’ personality before giving them the job and could see whether they would fit into their team.
“In November, I got a job at a café in Southwark through Get Hired, and I really enjoy working there. I also work with a Prince’s Trust executive in London and, together, we go into prisons to talk about my story, the trust and how it can help ex-offenders.
“So far we’ve been to Pentonville and Feltham Youth Offenders’ Institute. I left through one door of the prison and I’m going back through another. It’s a pretty good feeling to know I’m making a difference.
“If I hadn’t received support from The Prince’s Trust, I would probably have had a huge mental breakdown. I was on the verge of losing my home so finding a job was critical.
“I may not be totally financially free yet, but I’m doing much better and am involved in lots of amazing things. I’m a mentor for the Crystal Palace Football Foundation, I’m a Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador and I am constantly trying to meet new people and upskill myself. Giving back and mentoring genuinely makes me happy. My life has a purpose again.
“To those thinking of seeking support from the Trust, go for it.”
Director of the Prince’s Trust’s south region, Rozzy Amos, said: “Young people are key to solving current skills shortages and avoiding a future skills crisis in the south of England. But some employers use recruitment processes that make it hard for them to fill vacancies, as well as making it hard for young people to get their first job. It is vital employers start thinking differently.
“The Prince’s Trust provide employers with innovative methods of recruitment, such as our short pre-apprenticeship courses for young people, and our Get Hired initiative that promotes values over a curriculum vitae. We are relentless in our efforts to ensure all young people have the tools they need to start their career.”
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