Tom Stephens, 23, was ecstatic when he recently landed a full-time job at an Asda store in Altrincham, England. Asda is one of the largest grocery chains in the U.K., and after completing a training course, Stephens, who has cerebral palsy, is now making strides both personally and professionally.
Over the last five years, Stephens has been rejected 950 times in his quest to find a permanent position. The Asda traineeship program, put on in conjunction with the U.K.Movement to Work initiative, is designed to help individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 who are struggling to find work. The eight-week course gives participants classroom lectures and work experience, and the company hopes to recruit 1,000 young people through the program by the end of next year.
“I never gave up, but all those rejections really knocked my confidence,” Stephens said in a statement released through Asda. “I loved [the program] and was over the moon to get a permanent job. I have belief in myself again and have made so many new friends.”
Stephens told The Mirror that of the 950 jobs he applied to, he only received 50 callbacks, and most of the companies told him they weren’t interested in hiring him because he “didn’t have enough experience.”
“I think it was an excuse,” Stephens told The Mirror. “All of the knock backs made me want it even more. I never thought of giving up. I’ve got no interest in just claiming benefits and sitting around. I want to be a productive member of society.”
“It is not right and not fair that people with disabilities are, in my experience, not given enough opportunities,” he continued. “I want companies to just see what someone like me can do because I can do a fantastic job.”