Disability employment specialist Remploy has bounced back from the closure of its 54 factories and today helps thousands of people into mainstream work.
The organisation had sites making furniture in Barnsley and Sheffield but closed the last one in 2012 after a government subsidy ended.
The move marked a new beginning and a new business model. Today it operates government contracts on a commercial basis and in the last five years the Sheffield branch alone has helped 5,350 disabled people into work, it says.
Ashley Klein, aged 23, works at Marks & Spencer on Ecclesall Road and is set to become a supervisor after three years’ experience. He and recently-appointed Sheridan Sharpe were born with hand disabilities.
But they say they are determined not to let anything stop them doing all the usual duties of a busy city store.
Remploy helped them prepare for work after frustrating periods of unemployment. Ashley said: “Although I knew I was physically able to take on a range of jobs, employers were reluctant to give me a chance.
“Remploy gave me the opportunity to show I was just as capable as anybody else and although working in retail had never crossed my mind, I’m delighted to now be part of the M&S family.”
Sheridan, aged 22, from Manor Park, said: “Remploy had belief in me and Marks & Spencer gave me a great opportunity.”
David Felton, communications consultant at Remploy, said: “Today we can get more people into work by supporting them than keeping loss-making factories going with a static population.”