Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
146 Bolton Road
Tel: 0161 736 5866
For a FREE Home Safety Check please call:
CHRIS Toon was in charge of a team of thirty people selling insurance in a call centre in Manchester when he lost his job because of a chronic health condition.
When he managed to get his health problems under control Chris was faced with the most challenging jobs market in decades.
He said: "I lost a job I'd had for several years because of my health. When I got better I wanted to get back into work, but I was really struggling with the job climate being so bad.
"I was looking desperately to find a job and the Prince's Trust was running a course through my local fire station in Wythenshawe.
"I had an interview and was accepted on to the course in the same day. It was brilliant - I really enjoyed it."
Despite having a job with managerial responsibility previously Chris still found the Prince's Trust programme challenging.
"I had been stuck in a rut for a while, staying at home all day and things like that, so getting out on a regular basis was really good.
I found some of it challenging but in the end it was very rewarding," he said.
As soon as his time on the Prince's Trust came to an end Chris applied for a Community Safety Apprenticeship at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
He believes his experience as a GMFRS apprentice has changed him for the better.
"I feel more responsible and more mature, but most of all I feel like I'm going in the right direction. I was happy with working where I was, but I've always wanted to work in the community.
"I haven't had a single day in the six months I've been here so far where I've actually done the same thing as I did the day before. I've been continually finding new things to do and learn," he said.
Chris now has an appreciation of the power of apprenticeships and believes they "make a valued impact on organisations."
He added: "I recommend apprenticeships to anybody. It's something which is undervalued in the UK at the moment but it's starting to get a lot more promotion.
"We make a valued impact on organisations that we can get involved in. We can engage with youngsters because we are on the same level as them."
Like all the apprentices Chris wants to secure a job in GMFRS at the end of his time in the Service, but he thinks the scheme has given all he needs to be a success wherever he goes.
"One of the great things about the apprenticeship is the day release scheme at Salford City College. There's a qualification which goes alongside the apprenticeship and we learn skills which are transferrable to other companies and organisations.
"The skills we are learning are community based, so it's all about what we can do to improve people's lives," he said.