Brendan Richardson left school at 15 determined to get enough training under his belt to set himself up for life as a tradesman.

By the time he was 20, he had qualifications in painting and decorating, bricklaying, engineering, electronics, art and design and computers and was working as a decorator. However, while he was studying mechanics, to add further to his skills, disaster struck.

His right hand was crushed in an accident at college which left him in pain and unable to work. Tests revealed nerve damage and doctors said he would be unlikely to regain the strength to be able to return to physical work.

However, after three years of despair and living on disability benefits, Brendan, 23, from Maryport, Cumbria, was supported back into work through a three-year painting and decorating apprenticeship with a home maintenance company.

He said: “Even though I am well qualified the apprenticeship is perfect for me. Luckily, I have had electrode treatment and an operation that has brought some of the strength back to my hand and while I am getting back to full fitness, I am learning on the job every day and I am so happy to be back in active work. I feel like a different person.”

Before being referred to our Maryport Work Programme office, Brendan was depressed and knew he needed to get back to work for the sake of his own mental health.

He said: “I was worried no employer would ever take me on. I had been honest about my injury at job interviews and was repeatedly turned down because they said I couldn’t do the work. It knocked my confidence that people just saw me as disabled and didn’t see what I could do.

“I ended up on medication for depression but that didn’t agree with me so I stopped taking it.

“I became withdrawn and isolated. I stopped going out and seeing my friends. I had been on the sick too long and I needed help to get myself back into a positive routine and the right frame of mind.

“When I started on the programme, I was really quiet and barely spoke. I had given up. But they drew me back out of my shell. They were absolutely brilliant people, you couldn’t meet anybody nicer. When I realised they really wanted to help I put my trust in them and started throwing everything into getting back to work.

They really listened instead of trying to force me to go for jobs I couldn’t do. I am a hands-on person, I wouldn’t have lasted in a sedentary job, and they understood that and did everything they could to get me where I wanted to be.

The first step was a confidence-building course and helped with his soft skills, such as interview techniques and job applications.

He said: “I didn’t have a clue how to sell myself. They asked about my qualifications so I took them all in. They were pretty surprised how many I had but I hadn’t been using them properly.

When I was told me about this apprenticeship, I followed the advice I was given and I was thrilled when I got it.

“I am getting through the coursework very quickly and by the end I hope to have an NVQ level 5, the top one, which will really boost my career.

“This apprenticeship has got me back on my feet again. I feel 100 per cent better, I feel like I am back and I can do more things than ever. I no longer feel depressed or trapped.”