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As a child, Ishaan Saroya from London dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. By 10-years-old, his dream started to become a reality as he played for Queens Park Rangers at Academic level.

When Ishaan was 14, his father tragically passed away and it made him even more determined to make his family proud by progressing his footballing talent. He relocated to Telford with his mother, and started playing for a local team before getting more and more attention from bigger, more well-established clubs. He decided to accept an offer from Liverpool F.C. – the very team he supported – to play as a semi-professional footballer and he was provided with his own flat from the club.

But it was during a friendly match that Ishaan’s fate changed forever. Ishaan, age 18, was accidentally elbowed in the chest by another player and struggled to breath after the match. He believed it would be a temporary injury, however he soon discovered he had a collapsed lung. He was told he wouldn’t be able to play football ever again.

In an instant, Ishaan’s career was over. His flat was taken away and he moved back in with his mother. 

Ishaan says: “It was hard enough trying to adapt to being back at home with my mum, but because football was taken away from me I was sat around doing nothing. I had been out of work for a year and half, during which the Covid pandemic began, and I hit a state of depression. It was only after speaking to numerous counsellors that I began to have a clearer mindset and I started to think about my future career options. I realised that outside of football, there were so many routes available, and I got in touch with my local job centre. I hadn’t heard of Kickstart before, but as soon as my work coach mentioned the opportunity at M&S Longbridge I was excited.”

Ishaan immediately applied for the Kickstart scheme at M&S – the UK Government’s programme to help young people at risk of long-term unemployment get into work – and received a call to attend an interview at the store the following day. After a successful interview process, Ishaan was offered a place on the Kickstart scheme working in the M&S Longbridge Foodhall. 

Ishaan says: “Before joining the Kickstart scheme at M&S, I was in a very dark place and felt very sorry for myself. Within just a couple of months, this experience has brought me back to life. I’ve gained a completely new career path, new friends and importantly, more confidence. I’d never thought about working in retail before, but the M&S Foodhall has given me a totally different type of experience and has made me more self-aware. No day is the same and I’m always learning something different, from interacting with customers to understanding more about the business. I’m proud to say that every day, I work alongside friends who have given me so much support. My career drive is back, stronger than ever before, and I’m determined to work hard and progress my career in retail. M&S has truly changed my life.”

M&S has created 360 Kickstart work placements to help young people gain invaluable experience and get onto the career ladder in partnership with The Prince’s Trust.