Shropshire jobs fair to host inspirational speaker

A former drug addict and ex-prisoner who turned his life around after meeting Shropshire-based celebrity furniture restorer Jay Blades will give an inspirational talk to job seekers at an event at Shrewsbury prison later this month.

Steve Wyatt, who has overcome a 22-year addiction to drugs, to follow his dream of running his own furniture restoration shop, will attend the Building Shropshire Jobs Fair on Wednesday, July 20, to encourage individuals to follow their dreams and not give up.

The event at Shrewsbury Prison will take place from 10am to 3pm and is being hosted by Shropshire-based supported employment and training charity Landau, which works with a range of vulnerable unemployed individuals, including ex-offenders, to get them back into work.

Phil Taylor, chief operations officer for the charity, said: “Steve’s story is quite remarkable, and we think he will provide a lot of inspiration to people who are currently unemployed or at a crossroads in their life and don’t quite know what to do or where to turn.

“His story is a magnificent example of how no matter how complicated and challenging life might seem, by not giving up hope and seeking the right support, you can change direction and turn things around for the better and we know that this will resonate with many individuals.

“As well as hearing about Steve’s own personal journey to success, those attending the jobs fair will be able to speak to a range of different employers from across the region about current vacancies or seek advice from our own employment advisors on training and job support. We’re here to help as many people as possible transition back into work or find more meaningful and sustainable employment.”

Formerly from Birmingham, Steve’s journey started seven years ago when he admitted himself to rehab following a long addiction to drugs, which had seen him living rough on the streets and spending time in prison.

To help him recover, he began a 12-step treatment programme, and it was during this time that he learned the art of furniture restoration and his love for it. It was also around this time that he met Jay Blades, host of BBC TV’s The Repair Shop and owner of furniture restoration company Jay & Co which has workshops in Ironbridge and Wolverhampton.

"I distinctly remember Jay asking me ‘what could you do different?’ and it really stuck in my head,” explained Steve.

“Soon after that I started restoring bits of furniture in my garden and selling them online. I’d moved from Birmingham to Poole to be with my partner and things were going well.

“Just before the pandemic, an opportunity for a workshop came up locally and this gave me a much bigger space for my restoration work. It was a challenge working with all the restrictions, but I continued to source and resell furniture.

“In December 2020 things moved on again and I opened my first shop Restored Retro, and I would say I’ve sold in the region of 400 pieces of furniture in the last 14 months alone which is just incredible.

Throughout his journey, Steve has continued to receive support from Jay and within the last few months, the pair have struck up a new business partnership with Steve being one of only five UK stockists to sell Jay’s own collection of furniture.

Steve said: “It’s been a hard journey I’m not going to lie, and I’ll never forget where I’ve come from, but I’ve achieved a lot and I think the message to other people who find themselves in a situation is to never give up. I just held onto what I wanted to do but I would not be here without the support of those around me and a dream to follow. I started with absolutely nothing.”

The Building Shropshire project was launched by Landau earlier this year in partnership with Shropshire Council to support employers and job seekers across the county to build back stronger from the pandemic.

More than 450 vacancies across various job sectors will be showcased at the event by more than 30 different employers which include Nationwide Building Society, Barclays Bank, Pave Aways Ltd, Wenlock Spring, Grainger and Worrell, JCA Adventure Condover Hall, Culina Logistics and The Wrekin Housing Group to name but a few.

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