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“When I first found out that I had the position after the interview, it was a good feeling,” says Michael Allcock, the latest recruit to our team of Engage to Change ambassadors. “I felt excited and proud that I’d got it.”

In September, Michael became the fifth project ambassador to be employed by All Wales People First following an accessible application and interview process. He joins Gerraint, Jordan, Elsa, George and Jonathan in promoting Engage to Change at events, conferences and meetings across Wales from the perspective of people who has participated in the project themselves.

Until about two years ago, Michael was a volunteer with Mencap Cymru after getting involved with the organisation through the Play Our Way project. He then became one of the first young people to join the fledgling Engage to Change project and received job coaching and one-on-one employment support from project delivery partners ELITE Supported Employment. This was his first paid job, and in the subsequent two years he has succeeded in sustaining his employment with Mencap. “I’m pleased that I’ve developed from volunteering to the paid role,” says Michael. “I’ve wanted a career with Mencap for a while.”

As part of his role at Mencap Cymru, Michael answers the door and the telephone, handles print jobs for the organisation, assists with clerical work for the Personal Support team, and handles the post, alongside various other day-to-day tasks that arise at the office in Cardiff such as shredding, scanning, photocopying, and clearing away after meetings. He was supported initially by job coaches from ELITE via Engage to Change, who helped him to put processes in place to complete tasks with greater efficiency and to a higher standard, as well as to learn new tasks he hadn’t previously been responsible for as a volunteer. Over time, the one-to-one support was gradually withdrawn as Michael became a more independent worker, and today Michael is thriving as part of the Mencap Cymru staff team.

“Michael’s an asset,” says Kieran McCargo, his mentor and colleague at Mencap Cymru. “He’ll do really well [as an ambassador]. I think he’ll encourage other people to come on board because he’s really excelled.” When Michael first came on board as a volunteer, he was really quiet. “He wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Over the years he’s become a lot more confident.”

Michael agrees that he has grown in confidence over the course of his time in employment. While he expressed some concerns over the travel arrangements for his role as ambassador, he’s been reassured that plans will be put in place for appropriate support to enable him to carry out his role. Michael now hopes to develop his confidence and his travel independence further through the opportunities that will come his way as part of his new ambassador role, including public speaking opportunities. “I want to develop with writing and public speaking and the Engage to Change project is helping me with that.”

Michael is proud that he was able to demonstrate during an interview process that the experience and skills that he has gained in his first job will be valuable in his second – as an Engage to Change ambassador. He knows it’s not all plain sailing from here, but he seems to relish overcoming challenges. “I feel that it’s an exciting experience. It’s going to be a challenge with some good new experiences to learn from as well.”