Digital skills help Steven pick himself up and get back into life

13 Oct 2016

Steven Spencer, 59, had taken a few knocks in life before he found his way into his local UK online centre Access to Business, in Northampton. With their help though, he’s gained some new skills, new confidence - and a whole new outlook.

After losing his job and suffering a serious heart attack, Steven was left depressed and despondent - and admits to feeling pretty sorry for himself. He’d locked himself away from everyone and wasn’t really leaving the house.

“I’ll be honest with you, the heart attack knocked me for six”, says Steven. “I’d been on a day out with a friend and woke up in hospital. I’ve been recovering ever since. I was already feeling pretty low, and then after a few months I was taken off the Employment and Support Allowance and put back onto Jobseekers Allowance.

“At the time I didn’t think I was ready, but it was my Jobcentre advisor that suggested I go along to Access to Business. And I’ve not looked back since! It’s been brilliant. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t come here - nowhere good, that’s for sure.”

With a background in heavy industry, factory work and ten years as a bus driver, Steven had been struggling to find work even before his heart attack. Afterwards, the kind of jobs he’d normally go for just weren’t suitable anymore.

Steven says: “My job advisor knew I needed to get some new skills and I knew it too. Basically all the manual work caught up with me! I can’t go back into heavy industry. I need to find something else and that means learning more about technology. Although I knew a little bit about computers - I dabble in a bit of photography - I didn’t know anything about the world wide web.

“I had to remind myself that I’ve never been afraid of change, and that it’s better to meet these things head on. I’m so pleased I did, because it’s opened up a whole new universe to me. Before I was limited. Now I’ve got skills - and options.

“I’d have never have guessed before how much I’d get out of learning digital skills. And Access for Business is a wonderful place for people like me to come. As soon as you walk through the door it’s like a family atmosphere - and it’s not like that everywhere. Everyone’s got a smile on their face and you’re always made welcome. I can’t praise Sue and the rest of the staff enough - they’re so helpful. They’ll bend over backwards to help you in whatever direction you want to go.”

Access to Business started Steven up on Learn My Way, and he’s worked his way through nearly all of the courses - ranging from the basics of IT through to job searching, online shopping and social media.

“Learn My Way was brilliant,” says Steven. “I’m actually quite quick at picking things up, so I got through it fairly quickly. It’s a great way to start. Now I’ve set up all my online banking, and gone through all the government and council websites. There’s just so much out there and it’s not until you start opening doors that you find there’s a big world - and that you can access it all from your lap.

“When I saw that you could also do a City and Guilds qualification at the end of Learn My Way, I asked Sue if I could do it. Within a week I’d taken the test and got 80-something percent! For me that’s pretty good! Now I’m going to head to do an office skills course at Northampton College. I’d never have thought of doing that if I hadn’t come here, and I’d have never thought of going into administration as a future career.”

Now as Steven heads off to college he’s also become a volunteer at the centre, and he’s helping others follow the same path he’s just travelled.

He continues: “When I came in, I was a bit apprehensive, because I didn’t know what was involved. But then I met the team, and did Learn My Way and got my City and Guilds. It’s been great and it’s done me the power of good. My self esteem has gone from ground level to however high you want to go! And now I get to pass on the things I’ve learned here and help other people on that same journey.

“I’m working with a client at the moment who’s never been on a computer before and I’ve just helped him create an email account. His face lit up! It’s so rewarding. And if I hadn’t come to Access for Business I wouldn’t be having that experience either.

“I’d recommend anyone to get themselves along to an Online Centre like this one. Make the most of it. You’ve got an opportunity to learn something new - for free. That doesn’t come along everyday. It’s so important to keep learning - until the day you die. Take it from a guy who nearly died! Life is all about learning. You’re never too old, and it’s certainly never too late.”