Caring Robin looks to future thanks to pioneering Coleg Harlech scheme

After a lifetime in industry a special job programme for the long term unemployed has opened Robin Hughes’ eyes to a new career in caring for others.

The 54-year-old father-of-two has not worked full-time since 2008 after illness cost him his job at Anglesey Aluminium.

Job applications which never even got a response disheartened him, but then he was introduced to Intermediate Labour Market (ILM) scheme run by Coleg Harlech WEA.

The scheme pays wages to long term unemployed people on specially created temporary jobs.

Robin has spent  three months working at the Tyddyn Môn farm visitor centre at Brynrefail, Dulas, near Amlwch.

It is  run by people with learning difficulties and the experience has persuaded him that a life in the care industry could be more rewarding in every sense.

Robin, of Penycefn, Amlwch, said: “Tyddyn Môn caters for men and women of all ages wit different handicaps and mental issues and gives value to their lives by getting them into work. It’s very difficult for people like this to get work, especially in tight financial times, because often it needs another worker to look after them while they do the job.

“At Tyddyn Môn we do gardening, look after animals, carry out recycling, collecting and recycling clothes and shoes perhaps for re-selling or sending out to Africa. They improve compost so that it can be sold as soil enhancers.

“There are playgrounds for children who visit, walks, ponds, nice areas for visitors to picnic and a cafe,” said Robin who is soon to become a grandfather for the third time.

Born in Bangor and having lived most of his life in Amlwch, Robin left the Sir Thomas Jones school and worked on construction sites before securing a job with a local stone mason.

From there he went to work for the petro-chemical company Associated Octel at Amlwch until it was bought out and closed down. “I worked there for 25 years,” said Robin.

After a year with the ambulance service he moved to Anglesey Aluminium but because he was kept as a contract worker for four years when he fell seriously ill and could not fulfil his contract,
he lost his job.

In fact, Robin almost died. “I had a dodgy tummy the night after a kebab and put it down to th kebab. But when the pain got worse I went to the doctor and he sent me to hospital at Bangor and they decided to open me up to see what was wrong.

“My appendix had dissolved and was causing my intestines to deflate. Another day and I could have been dead. I was four days in intensive care,” he said.

With 30 stitches in his stomach, Robin recovered and managed to get back into temporary work at a plastics company, but that proved less than stable.

“I hate being on the dole, it really bugs me when I’m asked ‘have you been actively seeking work’. A lady at the Jobcentre told me about the ILM course at Coleg Harlech and I said I would be interested. It’s a couple of days at college and a few days work, hopefully leading to a full-time job.”

The Intermediate Labour Market (ILM) is a scheme funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and European Structural Funds (European Social Fund), and managed by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), the umbrella body for the third sector in Wales.

Coleg Harlech takes people who are unemployed and and pays them while they learn skills that they can use in rural Wales, particularly in land management, recycling, waste management and agriculture, and encouraging self-employment.

Robin’s first aid certificate from the ambulance service made him a more attractive proposition for Tyddyn Môn.

“The good thing about the course is that it opens your eyes to other possibilities and gives you an

insight. I’ve seen how rewarding the care sector can be.

“I would love to work as a care support worker, something that was beneficial and helps change someone’s life,” he said.

Married to Nancy, a school cleaner, for more than 30 years, Robin is convinced his ILM course may have set him up for a brighter future.

Ceri Lewis, ILM project manager said: “For Robin, working at Tyddyn Mon has opened up to him the possibility of a total career change which I really think he is going to excel at.

“For the past 12 weeks, the group have been studying for two days a week at Coleg Harlech WEA towards an Employability Certificate and for the other three days each member of the group has been working in placements across Anglesey and Gwynedd, specifically arranged to suit the skills of each individual within the group.

Already two of the group have started in new jobs, and five others are planning to enrol on different courses, as well as thinking about volunteering.

“It has been really fun working with each of the group and seeing everyone get their confidence back and discover and develop skills they never knew they had.”

Tyddyn Mon manager Lina Walne (corr) said: “He got on so well with all our service users. He did everything we asked of him and I think it really boosted his confidence.”

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