Unemployed urged not to give up at Shrewsbury Prison jobs event

Vulnerable people across Shropshire who face barriers to employment are being urged not to give up hope and seek support from a leading charity to help turn their lives around.

Phil Taylor, chief operating officer for Landau, is pictured at the Building Shropshire jobs fair at Shrewsbury Prison with furniture restorer and inspirational speaker Steve Wyatt
Phil Taylor, chief operating officer for Landau, is pictured at the Building Shropshire jobs fair at Shrewsbury Prison with furniture restorer and inspirational speaker Steve Wyatt

That was the message from former drug addict and ex-prisoner Steve Wyatt, who gave an inspirational and emotional talk at the opening of the Building Shropshire Summer Jobs Fair at Shrewsbury Prison.

The event was organised by award-winning supported employment and training charity Landau, to bring employers and job seekers together to help lower unemployment rates across the county and help businesses build back stronger from the pandemic.

Steve, who now runs his own successful business and has a partnership with Shropshire-based celebrity furniture restorer Jay Blades, spoke openly to business leaders about his 22-year addiction to drugs and how he changed his life for the better after reaching out for help and discovering his passion for furniture restoration.

He highlighted that for many people facing addiction, mental health issues or other challenges, finding the right job and passion can have the single biggest impact on their life and the ability to move forward.

Jay Blades

Steve said: “For me, furniture saved my life. We all have our struggles whether it be addiction, mental health or something else but finding a passion is key. I knew what I wanted to do and if other people can find their passion with the support of employers and businesses then it will save lives.”

Landau, which won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2021 for promoting opportunity through social mobility, works alongside its partners with some of the region's most vulnerable people, including ex-offenders, offering support and skills training to get them back into sustainable jobs.

More than 30 businesses exhibited at the jobs fair under the roof of Shrewsbury’s iconic prison and dozens of job seekers were in attendance.

Exhibitors covered a range of industry sectors including care, construction, retail and hospitality and there were more than 500 vacancies on offer.

Phil Taylor, chief operating officer for Landau, said: “The jobs fair has been another huge success in the Building Shropshire campaign, and we are delighted that we have been able to support job seekers with their next career move and support businesses which have been facing recruitment challenges.

“Having Steve at the event has been hugely inspirational and we know his talk will resonate heavily with many people that are currently unemployed or those who are finding themselves at a crossroads in life for whatever reason.

“It is not always easy to know where to turn but here in Shropshire support is available for people, and our employment advisors at Landau are always on hand to offer advice to individuals, put them in touch with the right organisations and help them to achieve the skills they need to get back into employment.

“We are also very fortunate to have a connected business sector in Shropshire, with lots of opportunities and we are working with many employers in the area to ensure diversity in the workplace is at the top of their agenda, making it easier for more vulnerable people to gain sustainable employment.

“We hope that those attending will follow Steve’s heartfelt advice and not give up. Often the first step to turning your life around is to reach out for support and our doors are always open.”

Formerly from Birmingham, Steve’s journey started seven years ago when he admitted himself to rehab following a long addiction to drugs, which had seen him living rough on the streets and spending time in prison.

To help him recover, he began a 12-step treatment programme, and it was during this time that he learned the art of furniture restoration and his love for it.

It was also around this time that he met Jay Blades, host of BBC TV’s The Repair Shop and owner of furniture restoration company Jay & Co which has workshops in Ironbridge and Wolverhampton.

"I distinctly remember Jay asking me ‘What could you do different?’ and it really stuck in my head,” said Steve.

Soon after he began restoring bits of furniture in his garden and selling them online. He then moved from Birmingham to Poole to be with his partner and just before the pandemic he opened a workshop in an antiques emporium.

In December 2020, he got the keys for his first shop – Restored Retro – and since opening he has sold in the region of 400 individual pieces of furniture.

Throughout his journey, Steve has continued to receive support from Jay and within the last few months, the pair have struck up a new business partnership, with Steve being one of only five UK stockists to sell Jay’s own collection of furniture.

The Building Shropshire project was launched by Landau earlier this year in partnership with Shropshire Council to support employers and job seekers across the county to build back stronger from the pandemic.

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