At the age of 16, I was suddenly stricken down with Schizophrenia. I couldn't cope with people and studying, let alone a proper full time job.
Medication didn't help me and the side effects of those powerful tranquillizers were intolerable. I frequently had to stop taking them.
Then finally, two years ago, my doctors tried me on a new drug, Clozapine, and amazingly it worked. Gradually, my condition improved until, at age 36, I was totally better and ready to join the world. But with no real career history behind me and unemployment at a national high, my chances of finding employment were thin.
That's when Croydon Outreach Team referred me to Status Employment so they could help me look for work. Initially I was introduced to one of it's Employment Consultants who in an informal manner took down all my details and helped me define what I would like to do for a living. I explained that I'd always wanted to nurse and, though I accepted it was too late for me to go in for general nursing, I wondered if I could perhaps be a dental nurse. (I had already had a temporary job as a Receptionist and in many small practices the roles of nurse and receptionist are combined).
At once I was encouraged to apply for local vacancies and, more significantly, invited to attend a talk by the HR team from Guy's / King's College hospital trust. Without much hope, I filled in their application form but to my delighted surprise, they offered me a place on their online three month Dental Nursing study course.
In the meantime, I attended two or three interviews for private dental nurse vacancies. While my Employment Consultant helped me improve the layout of my CV, another Employment Consultant prepared me with interview techniques. I didn't get offered any of those jobs, but the experience was invaluable.
I passed my online course with Kings College dental department and they invited me for literacy and maths exams. Fortunately it had already been suggested by my Employment Consultant I freshen up my English and Maths skills on a CALAT course, so I was already studying those subjects at college with the happy result that I was able to pass both the hospital exams.
I estimate that of the scores of initial applicants for the 10 available places for trainee dental nurses which Kings take on each spring, it was now down to around a couple of dozen, and these finalists had to attend a personal interview. So I had, say, a one in three chance of making it, but my Employment Consultant was as encouraging as ever.
In the event, her dedication was not misplaced. The hospital has a genuine equal-opportunity policy and didnt hold my past illness against me. They have awarded me a paid (about 15,000) two-year traineeship based at their Denmark Hill location in South London, subject to satisfactory police checks, proof of EU citizenship and references and, since she is the one who has helped bring me up to my present standard, my Employment Consultant is one of my referees.
I am eternally grateful for the support and advice the Status Employment team has given me. I wouldnt have made it without them.