Inspiring Stories from our Education Leaders

At Lyreco, we believe it is important to recognise the unsung heroes, those who are the driving forces behind a brighter and more promising tomorrow.

We firmly believe that the future of education is shaped not only by textbooks and classrooms but by the work we do in our communities and beyond.

Today, we share just one of the many heartwarming accounts that represent the extraordinary spirit of our team members. Meet Kevin O’Brien, an Account Manager on our Education Team, whose mentorship within the council has sparked positive change within his community.

Kevin O Brien – Diary of a Mentor

Changing the Lives of Our Young People.

I have been an Ambassador for Redcar & Cleveland Council for some time and in January of 2022, I was introduced to the Council’s Young People’s Business Mentoring Programme. The scheme is intended to help young people in the NEETS (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) category develop employability skills with the hopes of them finding a suitable route to training or employment. 

I instantly signed up for the programme and in February of 2022 embarked on a training programme to enable me to better understand the needs of NEETS people and begin the matching process for the applicants and mentors. I was eventually matched in October of 2022 with a young lady called Rebecca. 

Rebecca had left school with some GCSE’s and had started college on a Social Care Course but the college environment didn’t suit her way of learning and after completing the first year she left the course.  

The initial contact with Rebecca and the Careers led by the Council was over Microsoft Teams and we soon arranged a face-to-face meeting to discuss her options and how I would be able to help and advise her. Rebecca’s confidence was low, she was very shy and didn’t really know what she wanted to do or how she wanted to do it. We set out a plan so that we could develop her employability skills over a period of time, while the Council Careers team pushed local training providers and apprenticeship co-ordinators to find suitable opportunities for her around accountancy, social care and general admin – areas she had identified of interest. 

Over the next 8 weeks, the transformation in this young lady was incredible – she grew in confidence, and her ability to communicate with older Council staff and service providers was off the scale. Her research skills blossomed to the point where she was telling the Careers team where the opportunities were for them to look at for her. All the advice, I was giving her about interview techniques and questions, CV writing and general presentation for an interview was being soaked up like a big sponge. 

In January of 2023, she was offered an interview for an apprenticeship in the Finance Team of the Social Care Department of Redcar & Cleveland Council. We had a meeting the day before, where we went over the questions she was going to ask and the things she was going to say to the standard questions the interviewers were likely to ask her and the next day she went off to her first ever interview. 

I cannot begin to explain the literal joy I felt when she rang me straight after the interview to tell me they had offered her the position there and then. They were blown away by how well prepared she was for the interview, how she managed to control her nerves and ask some very relevant questions and they later thanked me for the help and support Rebecca had received prior to the interview. 

She has since gone on to secure part time work in a care setting to compliment her growing skills in the finance team. 

I continue to support the Mentoring Programme for the NEETS category at the Council and am waiting for my next assignment with eager anticipation.  

The Redcar & Cleveland Young People’s Business Mentoring Programme (funded by Anglo American) is proving successful in changing the lives of young people by helping them find employment, with the support of a Business Mentor. Since the launch of the programme, 9 young people taking part have started work in careers such as hairdressing, engineering and also with the local authority. 

If you would like more information on becoming involved in the programme please contact: Andy Veale, Business Mentoring Co-ordinator at 

Beyond the spreadsheets and meetings our team are the hidden helpers who make a significant impact both within the four walls of a classroom and beyond. Their passion and dedication go beyond just selling products – they’re actively contributing to the growth and development of our communities, infusing social value into their working days.

Each small step forward they take contributes to a monumental leap for education as a whole.