A GRADUATE has landed his dream apprenticeship in sports coaching after going from graduate of Sunderland University to full-time community activator.

Joshua Holmes, 22, from South Shields, works in the role for Physical Education and Active Kids Ltd, helping to deliver physical education to primary school children across the North-East.

He left university in June 2020 after completing a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Coaching.

The pandemic and remote learning made finishing his degree more challenging, and not long after graduating he realised his prospects of gaining employment were slim.

“There were too few jobs around because of the uncertainty of the pandemic and a lot of competition”, he said.

Determined, he applied for various bar jobs to tide him over but was unsuccessful, after which a friend recommended he get in touch with Pallion Action Group.

The registered charity, based in Sunderland, operates a diverse range of recreational and educational opportunities for the community.

This includes Employability Skills, Food Safety, Health and Safety Level 2, Functional Skills, First Aid and more.

The youngster enrolled in Pallion’s Employability Skills course, where he received practical advice and tips, including CV writing and interview skills.

Ceilia, one of Pallion’s advisors, pointed him to various job vacancies, including a government apprenticeship in sports coaching, which was his main passion.

He was successful in his interview, and has now been working as a community activator for Physical Education & Active Kids Ltd for several months.

He assists a senior member of the team with the coaching of children in various primary schools including in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland.

Alongside his day-to-day role Josh also completes set assignments every few months and is keeping a portfolio which will all go towards him achieving a recognised NVQ Level 3 Teaching Assistant qualification.

Physical Education & Active Kids Ltd is a private company that provides delivery, training and support for schools to ensure that their physical education provides their pupils with an enhanced and academically rewarding programme of physical activity.

“It’s been an absolute whirlwind”, he said. “Without the help of Pallion Action Group I wouldn’t be where I am today."I’d never heard of Physical Education & Active Kids Ltd before or that there was the option to do an apprenticeship in physical education as a teaching assistant.

"It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity so I knew I had to make the interview count, and Pallion were so supportive in giving me the coaching and the confidence to do that.”

The McCarthy Stone Foundation recently granted Pallion Action Group with a welcome boost of a £500 grant to help support the continued delivery of its services in Sunderland.

The McCarthy Stone Foundation is the independent, registered charity of the UK’s leading developer and manager of retirement communities, McCarthy Stone which has a development in Sunderland – Herriot Gardens.

It aims to build long-term partnerships with charities and organisations who support the wellbeing of older people, the educational needs of young people and the urban regeneration of communities.

Asked what he enjoys most about his new role, he said: “For me it’s getting to work with all the children on a one-to-one basis and seeing them enjoying themselves outside of the classroom and just being kids.

"It’s been such a hard year for everyone and we are seeing that physical activity levels in children have dropped dramatically which is alarming.

“P.E should be a time when children can let off some steam, make the most of being outside and have a run around in a non-pressure environment.”

He added: “Just recently I went into a school and taught years 5 and 6 to play rugby and it was the first time many had played the game.

"It was a real thrill to see them embracing it and to leave the session with them saying that they’d like to play another game soon. That for me is what it’s all about.”

Josh also coaches a local under 10s team– “The Harton and Westoe Allstars” at the Harton and Westoe Football Club.

“I’ve gone from essentially being unemployed and feeling quite low, to now being busier than ever and doing what I love, making a real difference to young people’s lives through encouraging a love and uptake of sport.

"We have had to learn to adapt our style of teaching in the current pandemic but I can honestly say that the last few months have been some of the best I’ve ever had.

"I am so lucky to have found Pallion Action Group when I did and the massive door that has been opened as a result of their help - I can’t thank them enough.”

Graeme Marsh at the McCarthy Stone Foundation commented: “We want to support grassroots organisations that really make an impact with their work.

"Josh’s story is testament to the real difference Pallion Action Group makes in the community and should be encouragement for anyone in a similar position to get touch with them.

"We wish them continued success and hope this grant goes some way to enabling them to reach even more individuals locally in need of their support.”

Karen Noble, Centre Manager for Pallion Action Group, said: "As a Community Hub we are pleased to be able to offer such a wide range of services to our residents, seeing people get jobs especially after such a miserable year due to Covid is amazing!

"Thanks to McCarthy Stone and their support we can continue trying to make a difference."

To find out more about Pallion Action Group visit pallionactiongroup.co.uk

To find out more about Physical Education & Active Kids Ltd visit peak-sport.co.uk

For more information about the McCarthy Stone Foundation visit mccarthyandstonefoundation.org