New job gives Ellie the kickstart she needed

Ellie Gannon is one of 10 new recruits to join Bolton at Home under the Government’s new Kickstart Programme. Kickstart offers six-month fully paid work placements to young people at risk of long-term unemployment.

We caught up with Ellie to find how she’s settling into her new role as a repairs contact co-ordinator.

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself

I like motorbikes. I’ve got a Kawasaki Ninja 6. She’s white and called Betty. Being 5ft 1 on a motorbike can be a bit tricky sometimes. I need to make sure I’m parked next to a kerb. I’m all for activism and believe that with kindness and a broad range of voices, we can change our world for the better. This is what I teach my little girl, Willow, who’s nearly six. I’m also a bit of a bookworm.

What does your new role involve?

As part of the programme, I work 25 hours a week as a repairs contact co-ordinator within the Technical Services Team. My area is gas safety. We check tenants’ homes once a year to make sure their gas appliances are safe. It’s very important that we’ve been able to do this throughout the pandemic. My job involves phoning tenants to let them know what to expect before a visit. I do a COVID-19 check over the phone to help keep tenants and operatives safe.

Sometimes my calls to tenants go further. One lady told me that she didn’t know how to work her boiler properly. It was something her husband did and he’d sadly passed away a few days earlier after 45 years together. I was able to help her with that. Other tenants have said how isolated and lonely they’ve felt, for different reasons. So I’ll spend a bit more time chatting to them to check they’re ok. I’ve learnt that our work doesn’t just involve entering people’s homes, we’re sometimes invited into their lives.

"I’m a bit of a social butterfly. I love talking to people. It’s nice to know that I’m doing something that’s important and worthwhile for people.

What’s a typical day like?

I spend most of my time communicating. In the morning I’ll receive contact details for tenants who are due a gas servicing appointment. I’ll get stuck into phoning them for most of the day. I also have meetings with colleagues or my manager by phone or video call when we need to discuss something.

I also have paperwork to do for Kickstart. With placements like ours we maintain a record of our personal development, along with self-assessments. I also do training activities that help me in my role. Fortunately, these can be done remotely and safely.

What do you like about your role?

I’m a bit of a social butterfly. I love talking to people. It’s nice to know that I’m doing something that’s important and worthwhile for people. Knowing that their gas appliances will be checked, and in a way that’s Covid safe, is one less thing for tenants to worry about. In the grand scheme of things, I play a small role but every role counts and it’s like my dad says: ‘Every nut and bolt turns the machine and there’s not a part that doesn’t make a difference’.

"Everyone should be proud of getting themselves and their loved ones through this pandemic."

What’s surprised you about your placement or yourself so far?

I’ve grown up being used to going to school, training or work and then going home. So I’ve surprised myself with how well I’ve adapted to working from home. And with my daughter’s school being closed recently, I’m quite proud of how resilient we’ve both been to work through all of this. Everyone should be proud of getting themselves and their loved ones through this pandemic.

What has the support been like during your placement?

I had a unique experience. The day I started with Bolton at Home, my dad was rushed to A&E. He had two strokes. My manager, Kate McGuiness, recognised that I was a single mum and a carer for my dad. She did everything to put me first. The support I got from Kate and the placement co-ordinator, Niki Meikle, has been absolutely incredible.

Knowing that I had their support and access to professional help like a counselling service if I needed it, helped me to deal with the situation.

"Jodie told me about this Kickstart placement opportunity with Bolton at Home and suggested I apply."

What challenges have you faced with employment?

My story goes back six years. I was pregnant with Willow at 17. I was in college and it was a difficult situation. I left college three weeks before I was due to sit my A-levels. I didn’t have a job to fall back on for support with maternity leave and then I was made homeless.

Willow was born prematurely and she was poorly at birth. Opportunities to go back to college or get a shift job were limited as childcare costs were out of my reach. I didn’t want to rely on my mum and dad, and they didn’t live close to me. When Willow started primary school, I began to pursue a career.

With already so many barriers to employment – my lack of experience and qualifications, responsibilities at home and a shortage of entry-level jobs, the pandemic came and added another obstacle. Then I heard about Kickstart and everything changed.

How did you hear about this opportunity and what was involved?

I need to give all of the credit to Jodie, my contact at the Department for Work and Pensions. Jodie knew I’d applied for a number of jobs since Willow started school. But I wasn’t getting anywhere because of my limited experience.

Jodie told me about this Kickstart placement opportunity with Bolton at Home and suggested I apply. She said as it was a starter position, it would give me the experience that had been holding me back, with the flexibility I needed for my family. I sent in my CV, got an interview and they told me I’d be a great match for the team!

What are your hopes for the future?

I’ve studied journalism before and loved it. I think it comes from my passion for activism. Whatever I do, I’d like to give a voice and more of a platform to those who are underrepresented or unheard. This includes single mothers who’ve found themselves in the same situation as me.

My contract runs until September. I’d love to stay if opportunities open up, but I’m confident I’d be able to move on with more experience and skills if not.

Would you recommend Kickstart to others?

I feel privileged to be one of the first of the Kickstart placements. People shouldn’t see this as a pity scheme. It creates positions for more people with something to offer – those with lived experience or with limited opportunities. From what I know of my Kickstart colleagues, we’re not short on skills, knowledge, work ethic or ambition. I’d certainly recommend the programme if future positions come up.

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