Natalie: “Match Fit was the best thing I ever did, I now have a full-time role and can actually go on holidays with my son!”

Natalie McDonagh, a 27 year-old from Scotland, struggled to find employment due to her criminal record, but after completing a Match Fit Traineeship at Blackpool FC Community Trust, she landed a full-time position.

Blackpool FC Community Trust are one of eight EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs) who run a Match Fit Traineeship in the country, with their first pilot solely aimed at females due to the high number of unemployed females in the 25+ age bracket in Blackpool.

A Match Fit Traineeship programme provides opportunities for unemployed people over 25 to gain valuable experience in a particular work environment while also developing functional skills such as Maths and English, enhancing their employability competencies.

The programme marries up with the DWP’s agenda and broader client group, offering support for the older unemployed, single parents, and clients with a range of barriers and challenges, such as mental health, social isolation, and physical disabilities.

After moving to Blackpool five years ago from Scotland with her son, Natalie struggled to find employment due to her criminal record.

She received a call from the Job Centre about Blackpool FC Community Trust’s Match Fit programme and took on the opportunity to improve her employability chances.

She said: “Before the Traineeship I was out looking for work, handing out my CV and attending appointments. I really wanted to prove myself and have a fresh start, but I just wasn’t getting anywhere because I had a criminal record.

“I received a call about the Match Fit Traineeship and it was the best decision I ever made, taking it on.”

After completing the course and passing her Maths and English exams, Natalie landed a full-time role as a cleaner.

Three months later, she is excelling in her role and credits the programme for the many benefits it has given her, including helping her to develop her self-confidence.

She added: “Before the Traineeship, my confidence was really low. I was so shy and scared communicating with other people as I was always used to being on my own, but the course helped me build my confidence and find the courage to push myself.

“I’m really enjoying my role and all the things that full-time work can give me. Honestly I don’t know where I’d be, or what I would have done without the programme in helping me get here.

“Now I have a full-time role I can do things I’ve always wanted like go on holidays with my son!

“My piece of advice would be that if you really want something, you have to stick at it and never give up. I’d highly recommend the Traineeship programme because if you work hard enough there really is a reward at the end of it.

“People say they can see a big difference in me now, saying that I seem so much happier and smiling more and that I’m different to how I was a year ago.

“There’s no point saying you can’t do something, because you can.”