Prince's Trust course in Leeds bridges the gap between failed A-Levels to meeting Prince Charles and a management job on the East Leeds £116m orbital project
A couple of years and Ben Jewers-Pettinger was jobless, had failed his A-Levels, was directionless and recovering from a mental health crisis and feared he might never find a meaningful role in society.
Fast forward to 2021 and he is a Prince's Trust ambassador, has met Prince Charles and is celebrating a one year work anniversary with construction giant Balfour Beatty where he is a manager on its £116m East Leeds Orbital Route project.
Mr Jewers-Pettinger, known to friends and college mates puts the vast turnaround in his life down to the Prince's Trust and a course he joined at Leeds City College.
The Prince’s Trust Team Programme, for 16-24 year olds, is designed to boost young people’s confidence through personal development and challenging activities, including a residential trip and work placement.
His tutors say he was a model student and he is now a young ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, has given dozens of talks - including one to an audience of 400 people - to raise awareness of the Trust's work and mental health issues.
In June, the 22 year-old was invited to attend a prestigious Prince’s Trust event at St James’s Palace where he ended up meeting Prince Charles and being interviewed by CNN. He describes this as the moment when he really realised how dramatically his life had changed.
He said: “Two years ago I was unemployed and had never had a job, then a couple of weeks ago I’m meeting Prince Charles. So it has been some two years. The real catalyst for change was me starting the Prince’s Trust course at Leeds City College, that gave me the confidence and focus to push on.
“I got trained in public speaking last March but then the pandemic happened, so most of my work for the Trust since then has been online, speaking about my experiences. The Future of Work event at St James’ Palace, where I met Prince Charles and spoke to CNN, was by far the biggest thing I’ve been involved in.”
Mr Jewers-Pettinger said: “If you break your arm you’ll take a few weeks’ sick leave and no-one will question that, but there is still some resistance to the idea that people might need to take a day or two off for mental health reasons sometimes.
“Mental health should be regarded like physical health and some employers could be doing more. Instead of putting up posters about wellbeing and feeling alright, they could be holding regular one- to-one meetings with employees to just check in on them, make sure they’re ok and know they have someone to talk to if they need some help.”
His role at Balfour Beatty, meanwhile, is a multi-faceted one that covers everything from administration to data analysis. He also manages Msite (a construction workforce app) for the
£116 million East Leeds Orbital Route (ELOR) project.
He said: “Work has been fantastic. I’ve come from a place where I didn’t think I’d ever contribute to anything, to dealing with a mountain of paperwork and dozens of emails every day.
“So I’ve become very much a cog in the machine – in the most positive sense possible.
“I failed a lot of my A levels because of mental health stresses and spent a few years just wandering really, but managed, thanks mainly to the Prince’s Trust course, to turn things around.”