From Kickstart Scheme to Oxford offer


Benji Thomas Supplytrain Kickstart

Interested in the impact the Kickstart Scheme can have?

Supplytrain’s own member of staff, Benji Thomas, speaks of his journey from unemployment to securing a job through the Kickstart Scheme, and now preparing to take up a place on a Master’s Degree at the University of Oxford…

“After being made redundant shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was struggling to find work in the rapidly shrinking job market. As a result of this, compounded with the increasingly crippling isolation that so many felt during that time, I began to feel more and more hopeless about my future. Being unemployed chipped away slowly but relentlessly at my self-image – a process that was (and still is) only encouraged by the stigma our country places on the benefits system.

“I was granted Universal Credit while I sought employment which, as a 23 year old, allowed me access to the Kickstart Scheme. This would turn out to be exactly what I needed to get myself back on my feet.

“I soon interviewed for a job with Supplytrain, who then took me on as one of their first Employer Support Team Members in January 2021. I would be responsible for communicating with employers and jobcentres to facilitate the Kickstart Scheme, in Supplytrain’s capacity as a gateway organisation.

“It was nice to think that I would be able to see how the system that had gained me a job actually operated, and be directly involved in helping those like me that were struggling to get back into work.

“I was able to use my copywriting experience to confidently communicate in writing, but I badly struggled with anxiety when communicating by phone. However, over the course of my placement and with support from my careers advisor and my line manager, I grew in confidence enough to totally overcome my anxiety and communicate across all channels.

“The modest 3-strong Employer Support Team soon became 7, and I was promoted to Team Leader, responsible for directing team meetings and working with the managing director to strategise next steps.

“Before my time at Supplytrain, the idea of taking a leadership role would have seemed completely unthinkable, but after my time here I can say that I’m more than capable of adopting those responsibilities.

“Strengthening my verbal communication not only equipped me to grow into my role in the company, but it affected the ambition of the goals I set for myself.

“As the Kickstart scheme started to draw to a close this year and I knew my role at Supplytrain would be changing I began to consider re-entering education. During 2021 I had sought opportunities to exhibit and sell my work as a freelance artist, and was lucky enough to be involved in some amazing projects and initiatives. With some professional experience under my belt, but having had very little contact with other artists and new ideas during the pandemic, I felt I was ideally placed to start a postgraduate degree in Fine Art.

“I applied to several universities, and was delighted to be offered an interview at the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University. The interview was very challenging, with complex questions about my practice and even a few unexpected technical problems sprinkled in. Regardless, the interview went very well, and I was offered a place to begin my MFA at Oxford in October 2022, alongside only 15 other candidates.

“I’m fully confident that without the training, support and trust I received at Supplytrain, I would have crumbled under that pressure.

“When a company trusts you to do more than you think you’re capable of, it’s a chance to prove that you can, both to them and to yourself. There are so many people out there who just need to be given that same chance, and I like to think that Supplytrain, and by extension the Kickstart Scheme, has gone some way to addressing the stigma that surrounds unemployment.”

What next?

  • To see some of Benji’s artwork follow him on Instagram.
  • If you’re a young person in the UK looking for a chance to prove your talent in a new career, email us your CV.
  • If you’re an employer that wants to work with a socially driven recruitment agency and recruit amazing talent get in touch.
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