Five years ago, Mark found himself jobless with a second child on the way. He was anxious – and not just because it would make it harder to pay the bills.
He was worried about what other people would think. Having been made redundant from his role as an apprentice in the manufacturing sector, he and his partner - a chef - agreed that whoever found a job first would take it while the other stayed at home to look after the kids. "And she beat me," he laughs.
Now, the 29-year-old, from Castleton, has started a new career in engineering thanks to a fully-funded five-week skills bootcamp which he found through his local job centre. And with another baby 'in the oven', he could not be happier.
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"When you wake up in the morning and you've not got a job and you're just looking after kids...I was struggling to get the energy to get out of bed. But now I've got a job, I've got stuff to do and I just feel so much better," he said.
"I feel like people aren't judging me. It didn't bother me, but all my neighbours knew me as being a stay at home dad. I don't know what they think of me, but it was in the back of my mind. I feel like other people see me differently now."
With most of his family working in the construction industry, Mark says he was pushed 'very hard' to get a trade after leaving school. He tried his hand at construction over the years, but struggled to find settled work in the sector.
In 2014, he did a course which landed him an apprentice job in manufacturing. But after he was made redundant, he had to 'completely start from scratch'.
When his career gap stretched to five years, Mark feared he'd left it too long to get back into work. So, when he found the Metal Inert Gas welding course at Rochdale Training through the job centre, he signed up straight away.
The five-week course covered general engineering skills and taught him how to safely operate machinery, while tutors helped him build a CV and practice for job interviews. And, on the last day of the course, he interviewed for a job.
He now works as an apprentice at Ventilation Design Services in Oldham and attends college once a week as part of the programme. He says the course was perfect for people like him, who had had kids and been out of work.
"It was a lot better than what I thought it would be with it being recommended by the job centre," he said. "I thought we'd be rushed - just to tick a box - but it wasn't like that."
Skills bootcamps aim to help adults living and working in Greater Manchester to retrain and reskill by offering in-demand skills training and fast-track job interviews for higher skilled, good quality jobs. Rochdale Training works with local employers to arrange interviews for learners who complete the course.
Engineering chief instructor at Rochdale Training, Bill Sandilands said: "As well as providing an important qualification, the training also increases candidates’ confidence and interviewing techniques to set them on the path to employment. It’s all about standing out from the crowd and Rochdale Training makes you that bit more special and more attractive to potential employers."
Rochdale Training is one of 13 training providers working in partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to deliver skills bootcamps. The programme is fully funded through the Department for Education and aims to help people looking to get onto the career ladder, transition back into work after a break or progress in their job by learning new skills in their field.
They support people aged 19 and over from 'priority groups' including low paid and unemployed people, veterans and ex-offenders as well as women, minoritised communities and people over 50. The programme also benefits businesses by assisting them in filling specific skills shortages and vacancies.
The latest wave of skills bootcamps covers a wide range of sectors including construction and green, digital, manufacturing and engineering, hospitality, logistics, education and health and social care. Employers who are interested in training their existing workforce are required to contribute towards the training with the contribution set at 30 pc of the total cost of training, with a reduced rate of 10 pc applicable to employers with fewer than 250 employees.
Bury council leader Eamonn O’Brien, who is the GMCA's lead for technical education and skills said: "The latest wave of Skills Bootcamps underscores our commitment to equipping residents with the skills they need to thrive in today’s dynamic job market. We believe that by providing accessible training opportunities and empowering individuals to excel in their careers, we can drive economic growth, reduce inequalities, and create a prosperous future for all residents of Greater Manchester."
To find out more about skills bootcamps and how to participate, visit the GMCA website.