A Hartlepool man has praised his bosses at a retail giant for stepping in to end his three-year search for work.
Hartlepool was recently named as having one of the highest unemployment rates in Great Britain, and Simon Watson, 36, was one of the statistics.
The Burn Valley resident had previously been in jobs at a food shop, upholsterers, and in making car parts.
But his last post was in 2011 before he was taken on to Marks & Spencer’s employability scheme, Marks & Start.
It supports people who face barriers to employment and helps them to get back into the workplace.
Simon now works at the new M&S Foodhall on the Anchor Retail Park in Hartlepool.
He said: “I left my job at the car manufacturers after 11 years, as I was ready for a change.
“Rather naively, I thought that I would be able to get a new job quite easily, but it didn’t turn out that way.
“It was a very difficult time and one I wouldn’t be keen to revisit again.”
He “jumped at the chance” of joining Marks & Start - first on a three-day training course, which gave him an insight into the business.
Then he did a two-week placement in-store and now works across the operations side of the business, helping to manage stock orders and deliveries at M&S Foodhall Hartlepool.
Simon said: “My job has also turned into more than just a job as I’ve met some brilliant people who have become friends.”
He said Marks & Start had provided him with “a new found confidence, not to mention lots of new skills”.