After years facing her own personal battle with OCD and anxiety, Stockton Riverside College student Emma has found the confidence she needed to make a change.
Chatting with colleagues and discussing the day ahead, Emma looks every bit the office professional.
A newly appointed business administration apprentice at Jacksons Law Firm, she already loves the work and has big ambitions for the years ahead.
Brimming with enthusiasm and a beaming smile, it’s hard to believe the 18-year-old has ever lacked in confidence.
But Emma says just 18 months earlier she couldn’t have imagined being where she is now.
Having battled as a teenager with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety, she said: “I didn’t think I would be able to get a job or even go for an interview.”
Fixating on hygiene, she explained there was a time when she would even struggle to go out.
At its height she said: “I would shower about five times a day and would go through bottles and bottles of hand sanitiser and packets of antibacterial wipes.”
By the time she was due to go to college she said it was affecting almost every aspect of her life.
For Emma, welcome change came through The Prince’s Trust at Stockton Riverside College. In fact she says it is down to the college’s Prince’s Trust Achieve course that she is where she is today.
Having tried a few different courses but never quite finding the right fit, she was pointed in the direction of the personal development programme which enables young people to try out new activities, build their confidence and take part in work experience.
“I didn’t know much about it, but I was told it could help to build my confidence and employability skills,” she said. “I did struggle at first but I found it really helped in the end.”
Always taking into account her OCD, the tutors found ways of helping her to get involved and overcome barriers. Emma even managed to carry out a first aid course, including practical resuscitation skills, something she never would have thought possible.
“They would always ask if I was comfortable and come up with solutions for how I could do things,” she said. “My tutor, Claire McGarvey, was amazing. I couldn’t have done most things on the course without her support and guidance.”
Little by little Emma’s confidence started to develop. Today she even surprises herself.
“I didn’t really notice the change myself but my mam would come into the college and say thank you so much to the tutors,” she said.
“I used to find it difficult to talk to people, now there is no shutting me up.
“There are little things like I will open a door for someone and suddenly realise I just touched the door. It sounds stupid but they are big things for me.”
When she spotted the apprenticeship vacancy at Jacksons Law Firm in Stockton, making that all important application was a milestone. To go on to an interview and then to get the job was a bit of a dream come true.
Now loving every minute of life at the solicitors firm, she said: “If I hadn’t done that course I don’t think I would have got this job. It pushed me to be the best that I can be.
“Now I am like a different person. I want to come to work every day and when I am on holiday I look forward to being back at work.”
Emma’s line manager at Jacksons Law Firm, Associate Helen Milburn, said: “Emma came across really calm and collected in her interview. The work experience she had on her CV is something that we look for as it shows real transferable skills. She has fitted into the team really well.”
Happy to talk about her own experiences to help others, Emma said: “I like to be open about it.”
Her advice to others is: “Give yourself something to aim for every day. Even if it is something small. That way you always have something to achieve.”
Jacksons Law Firm was shortlisted in the apprenticeship category at this year’s inaugural, Tees Businesswomen Awards. The firm’s apprenticeship scheme is now firmly embedded, and they currently have four apprentices in place who are gaining experience of what it is like to work in a law firm. In 2019, Jacksons will be appointing two additional apprentices, one of which will be based in their Newcastle office.
Jacksons Law Firm is one of the North East’s longest established law firms and has been practising in the Tees Valley for over 140 years. Operating from its head office in Stockton on Tees, an office in Newcastle upon Tyne and office space at the North East Business Innovation Centre in Sunderland, it is well placed to assist clients across the region on a wide range of business and personal legal advice.