A new country, a new language and a brand-new career in the UK – there’s no stopping Fathi Mehdi.

Fathi Mehdi’s journey in enterprise and education is truly inspirational. He arrived in the UK as a refugee only a couple of years ago, and he found himself homeless, speaking very little English, and being uncertain of how to get a job – least of all embarking upon a long-term career. However, despite these enormous challenges, Fathi has thrived through his relationship with CCBED (Centre for Capacity Building & Enterprise Development); a Bristol-based social enterprise that helps people in its local community to gain employment. For our third CCBED article, we chatted to Fathi about how he found his confidence, getting his qualification, and starting a professional career in the UK.

When Fathi first came to the UK he lived in Glasgow for six months, but it was when he moved to Bristol in 2015 that the community support available provided him with the platform to really begin his enterprising and employability journey.

Ashley Community Housing is a refugee resettlement service in Bristol, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and they helped Fathi to settle into his new city and create the strong foundations that would help him on his route to finding a good job. Fathi says:

“Ashley Community Housing is where it began. They were so lovely, they helped me with so much. I was homeless at the time and they found me accommodation, and my English wasn’t very good back then, but I was able to study English through them too. I also studied other courses in their learning centre, such as IT and mathematics.”

Through Ashley Community Housing, Fathi was able to develop his employability and language skills, and after only a short time he had his Level 1 qualification in English. However, despite making big steps in his education, Fathi was still finding it very difficult to get a job:

“I didn’t know how to start my career in the UK. It’s really hard. Even after doing these IT and maths courses and so on, it was still very difficult. I did many interviews, but if you don’t get the job, you don’t get any feedback – so I knew that there was something missing, but I didn’t know what it was. And because I’m not from here, finding work can be harder, especially if you’re not local and it’s a new culture that you don’t know.”

Through Ashley Community Housing’s Community Engagement Partner, Dr. Attia, Fathi was put in touch with CCBED to help him to get further support and develop skills that would help him to transition into the working world, and Fathi says how the experience has changed everything for him:

“To be honest, when I started the course with CCBED, I frankly didn’t expect it to be this useful! But after I started the course, I didn’t want to miss a single class. The tutor, Jane Franklin, was so supportive of me, and my classmates were very supportive and helpful too. Before the course, I didn’t know what to expect, but once I was there I got the meaning of the whole thing. I learnt about motivation and demotivation and how it effects everything in the work place, I learnt about what my strengths and weaknesses were, and I learnt about the real meaning of

teamwork. I didn’t quite know the meaning of that before, but everyone in the class had to really work together and help each other.”

However, Fathi says that the most important lesson that he learnt throughout the experience, was the importance of self-belief and confidence:

“That thing that I said I was missing, but didn’t know what it was – that was confidence. And it’s a really important thing to have – you have to find it. One day, Jane said to me, ‘if you don’t have confidence in yourself, then you’ll never do anything!’. She told me that I needed to be open and to believe in myself. She said, ‘you have lots of skills, such as being really good at IT, so don’t tell me that you aren’t good at anything!’. She said that I could do something, and something that could benefit the community too, that we just needed to refocus on my confidence and would change everything. And she was right.”

Part of the process with CCBED was to set ‘Smart Goals’, and Fathi says that putting these short-term and long-terms goals down on paper gave him the motivation to start working towards his future:

“Putting myself down on paper helped me to learn about who I was and what I wanted. Before the course, I was lost and didn’t know what I wanted, but writing it down gave me the chance to think about these things and be able to talk about myself. It gave me a confidence that I didn’t have before the course.”

Two months ago, Fathi was awarded his CCBED Level 2 Award in Enterprise and Employability, and not only did he receive an award to celebrate this fantastic achievement, but he actually helped to organise and run the event, as well as getting up on stage and giving a talk to the guests:

“I helped with everything from setting up the hall to welcoming people and showing them around, and then I got up on stage and spoke about my experience with CCBED and Ashley Community Housing. I was really quite nervous about doing it, but Jane encouraged me to be open, and said that she knew I’d got more confidence now. At the beginning of this course, if you had asked me to stand in front of all these people and talk about myself, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that. But I did it!”

All of Fathi’s hard work with CCBED has paid off, and he is now waiting to start a new job as a care assistant – which was one of his long-term Smart Goals. However, ‘waiting’ does not mean any ‘down time’ for Fathi, as he is busier than ever – working in three volunteering positions to further develop his skills and experience, and giving back to the community that supported him on his road to getting employment in the UK:

“I volunteer at Ashley Community Housing and Easton Family Centre – and a month ago I started volunteering at CCBED too! They have helped me so much, so I wanted to be able to do something in reverse and give something back. But it helps me lots too, not just because I am getting experience working in an office and doing admin, but on a personal level – getting to know the culture, practicing speaking the language, and meeting lots of people and making new friends. At the beginning of the course I felt like I just wanted to get an education and pass my exam and that was all, but I’ve got so much more than that. CCBED has been amazing, and I’m still learning new things every single day.”

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