The North West of England – where we deliver the Work Programme - was among the regional success stories last week (Wednesday 11 November) as the Government published record-breaking employment statistics.

Latest figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions showed there are 75,000 more people are in work in the north west compared with this time last year – the employment rate is 72.1%, up 1.5 percentage points on the year.

Throughout the north of England, there are 329,000 more people in work since 2010, and the UK employment rate has risen to a new record high of 73.7%, and average pay has grown 3% over the last year.

One of those now celebrating a new job is 30-year-old Russell Matin, from Manchester, who has returned to the jobs market after nine years out of work.

Russell Matin isn’t short on enthusiasm, talking confidently about his ample computer skills and the importance of working hard.

But returning to the jobs market after nine years unemployment on disability benefits, the 30-year-old whose mobility is affected by a congenital condition found that his lack of any real work experience meant he was constantly overlooked by employers.

“I must have applied for well over 100 jobs,” said Russell, “Office work, customer service, data entry, anything to do with computers. I was willing to try most things, but I’d always get the same feedback – I didn’t have enough work experience.”

Russell’s struggle to stand out from the rest is an age-old problem for jobseekers in a competitive jobs market, where hundreds of people can apply for the same job. But that changed when he was referred to us on the Work Programme – and Russell was given an edge over other job applicants.

Job Coach Henry Hitchen explained: “Russell is extremely computer literate and as soon as he started playing towards his strengths, he began to make real progress.

“One of the first things Russell and I did together was look at how he was applying for jobs and the quality of his applications – unfortunately, he wasn’t gaining any interviews despite the hours and effort he was putting into his job search.”

“Russell was applying for such a wide range of jobs, mostly in call centres, but he was keen on working in data entry and we were able to give him some tips on how to improve the quality of his applications to highlight the obvious skills he had. A few applications later and Russell was soon receiving replies and had a few interviews in the pipeline.”

Even so, the time that Russell had spent out of work had badly dented his confidence, and he had started to worry how his health would hold up in work.

As Russell’s first interview approached, he was understandably nervous and apprehensive, so Henry took him through interview techniques and completed a couple of mock interviews involving different members of staff conducting the interviews.

Although Russell was unsuccessful at his first interview – turned down again because of his lack of experience - Russell’s confidence began to grow, and he was encouraged through a number of workshops to talk more openly about his skills and sell his qualities to employers.

It paid off and over Christmas last year, Russell landed a temporary Data Entry position working for the Royal Mail – finally giving him the opportunity to update his CV with paid work experience he’d waited so long to get.

A few months later, Russell secured another data entry job at a company based in nearby Sale, and has now been employed for seven months. And his employer has been so impressed by Russell’s work ethic that he offered him a permanent contract and moved him to a more challenging job role.

“It feels really good to have a job,” said Russell, “I’m working with friendly people and I hope that by working hard, I’ll be able to go up another stage.”