The 56 year-old father of two saw his 20-plus year career in the telecoms industry disappear after he was made redundant last March.
And in place of what he thought was lifelong job security he found a future full of uncertainty and doubt.
“It was pretty scary and quite depressing,” admits Gary. “I hadn’t been out of work since I left school so at first I was in shock but then the realisation dawned that I would basically have to start again.”
Gary moved north to Wigan in 1985 and settled in Hindley Green. He had been actively employed ever since and when the axe fell he was totally unprepared.
“I tried looking around for a new job,” he says. “I had a go at putting my own CV together and visiting the job centre. I was looking for another job in my field but there was just nothing out there.”
After a few weeks of looking in vain, Gary’s situation became quite desperate.
“I was getting nowhere,” he says. “And because of my age and circumstances I was beginning to think that I might never get another job.”
That all changed when Gary walked into the Leigh Skills Shop and was introduced to the Bickershaw Family Employment Initiative.
Part of the wider ongoing regeneration of the Bickershaw colliery site, the project is aimed at the communities surrounding the site.
Over the next three years it is offering a programme of support for families which includes everything from confidence-building and health advice through to advice on how to get training and even start your own business.
Based at the Westwell Community Centre in Westleigh, the service first helped Gary by making him realise how much he had to offer.
“I soon realised that over my working life I had built up a lot of skills and knowledge that I didn’t even know I had. How to deal with and speak to people are skills you can bring to any job.”
Within weeks of his first visit Gary had found a new job with Wigan Council’s Information Advice and Guidance service.
And now his job is helping to find other people jobs!
“In the space of a couple of months I went from thinking that I might be on the scrap heap to having a definite plan for the future,” he says.
“And it’s all because I realised that I couldn’t do it on my own.
“My advice to anyone who is unemployed or facing the prospect is to look for what help is out there. There’s a lot more than you might think.”
Wigan Council’s Cabinet Champion for Healthy Communities Cllr Keith Cunliffe says: “Unemployment can have a big impact on every member of a family so we’ve developed a package that offers something for everyone.
“The initiative reflects what our communities need to take full advantage of the training and employment opportunities that are available. We hope that we’ll be hearing about many more success stories like Gary’s.”
Initiative helps the jobless
The Family Employment Initiative is funded through the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Working Neighbourhoods Fund.
Its target groups are people claiming Job Seekers Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Lone Parent Benefit.
Employment advisors and support workers will offer a full package of employment advice and guidance, one-to-one support and health education. The team will also link to employers and provide information on training.
The service is based at Westwell Street Family Employment Skills Centre – other venues include Jubilee House on the Plank Lane Estate, Wigan Road Labour Club and Bickershaw Labour Club.
For session times and more information call 01942 487343.
The council’s skills shops are at the Grand Arcade, Wigan (827826), Market St, Leigh (404456) and Marsh Green (705067).