Young people’s stories: Maria, 24, secures paid position after 2 weeks work experience with Willmott Dixon
07 DEC 2016

Maria, 24, did a two-week work experience placement in Administration and Customer Service at Willmott Dixon and impressed so much they offered her a paid role! Whilst only temporary her bosses have since been talking to her about a number of other roles and the prospect of staying on permanently.

Maria said:

“I first needed St Basils when my sister got evicted from her property and she came back to my mum’s home with all her four children, so there just wasn’t any room for me anymore.

I moved straight into Edmonds Court Foyer, I really like it there. It’s nice to have the support if you need it but you can live pretty independently as well.

Before I got the placement at Willmott Dixon I did loads with the Learning, Skills and Work (LSW) team at St Basils; Interview skills, employability and the 10 week Mental Skills Training (MST) programme. I got involved with whatever was going on at the time because I wasn’t in college and I found I just got bored otherwise so whatever workshops were going on, even if I wasn’t sure about them at first, I’d still go along and get involved. I learnt loads, even things I thought I’d known but I’d forgotten.

MST was wicked! I absolutely loved it and it did build up my confidence a bit more, taught me how to manage my nerves but more than that it’s all about knowing what your skills are and knowing how to use them”.

The Work Experience Placement at Willmott Dixon

“I learnt quite a lot more than I thought I would just on the placement. When I first got shown the system I thought ‘Wow, I’m not going to be able to do this’ but as you go along it gets easier and you pick it up and then you want more challenges, and you want to do more things through their system that will be helpful.

I think they can tell I’m quite enthusiastic about their system… and when my placement was coming to an end I asked if I could stay on as a volunteer and just learn more about it. I just felt like I had so much more to learn on it but they seemed to want to help me out by paying me and when an agency staff member left I was offered this paid role! Otherwise I’d still be here as a volunteer.

It’s temporary at the moment but they’ve told me about a few other permanent positions they might be able to offer me soon, and they’re training me on everything, not just the role I was offered. It feels like they want to keep me.

My favourite part of the role here is talking to the customers on the phone. I know some people would think that would be stressful - dealing with the customer’s problems, but I like challenges. I’ve discovered that about myself recently.  So it’s nice to feel I can handle that and it’s good to be the one that sorts it for them by getting it all booked in.

I do love working here and it’s completely changed my days from how they used to be. I get up at 6am and then I have to be in work for 8am but luckily enough one of the engineers picks me up now so that’s saved me quite a journey but I’ll be in earlier then. Then it depends what time my partner can pick me up from work but I won’t get home until quite late, I’ll cook, watch some TV and go to bed, that’s my life now during the week! I don’t have the energy for anything else.  

I like it though; I feel like I’ve got a purpose for the day. I used to just waste time days there was nothing on at the project. I just used to sit in front of the TV all day on my phone, but it didn’t feel good. It’s nice to have purpose now.

I don’t actually have to work to still be on a reasonable amount of money, because I’ve got a long-term physical impairment so I get extra benefits… But now I think working is so much better… and that’s what I found doing the placement and I just wanted it to carry on".

How St Basils helped

"Other than the workshops what’s particularly helped me from St Basils side is the support of the staff, particularly LSW Officer Vicky and Partnership and Progressions Officer Kash. I think they’re just really dedicated to what they’re doing – Vicky tells you what you’ve got to do, you can’t miss your support appointments, she’ll come and find you if you do, you’ve got no choice, but she does it in a way that shows she cares about you. And Kash helped me get the placement here so I’m really grateful to her too.

Willmott Dixon have been helping with my day savers when I needed to get the bus when I first started here and LSW helped me out with a clothing allowance and a suit. I got a £50 gift voucher from LSW as additional support too.

I think this experience has shaped me as a person. I found I’d become quite lazy during the day… it’s mad how being unemployed can be so tiring and you’ll sleep all day but still feel tired!

My advice to young people at St Basils is ‘just give things a go’. If you stick at something, you’ll never know where it will get you! Don’t just give up on it because you’re struggling with it at first because there’s so many opportunities while you’re at St Basils and you’ll just miss out if you just do nothing”.

Kash Munroe, Partnership and Progressions Officer at St Basils who's reasonably new to the role said: “This has been one of my first placements and I’m just so pleased. Just got her two weeks work experience and they’ve kept her on! It’s just brilliant!”

Kash added: “I was talking to Willmott Dixon and we were planning this 6 weeks before and me and Vicky were working closely together on it discussing a few of the young people at St Basils. We were keen to get Maria on it. We knew she’d be good and it’s just made me so happy that she has done so well. I’m really proud of her!”    

Melanie Checkley, Regional Community Partner at Willmott Dixon said:

“Our work experience programme is extremely flexible it can be a couple of hours to months in duration.  There are various roles that people can take advantage of, and they range from admin, planning, customer services, trades, quantity surveying, Management, HR and IT.

When Maria started with us all of the staff that worked with her really liked her.  She fitted in with the team as if she had been here years. Maria embraced every task that was set her, and did so well.  We liked her that much that we all wanted her to stay.  We were all delighted when Maria applied for a temporary position and got it.

It has been a real pleasure having her work with us.  She has done amazing, and she is such a positive influence in the office.  Maria really is a lovely young lady.”

Can your company help too?

Our young people just need someone to give them a chance - to prove to themselves and others what they can do! Work experience helps do that, it helps them gain the skills and confidence they need to be successful. 

If your company can help with work experience opportunities of 1 or 2 weeks please contact our Learning, Skills and Work team via