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Our '1 in 5' meet Theo Paphitis

Meridian's 1 in 5 candidates meet business guru Theo Paphitis Photo:

With 1 in 5 sixteen to twenty-four year olds unemployed it is harder than ever to get a job.

We're following a group of young people on Meridian Tonight as they prepare and battle to find work. They've already had a masterclass with Lee McQueen and tips on how to give a good interview. They've hit the ground running with ex-Army man Steve Lambert who taught them about Leadership and team building on the assault course. Last month they met Hayley Taylor for some valuable tips on how to compile your CV.

This month our group of young people had the chance to meet one of the country's top businessmen and entrepreneurs - Theo Paphitis and visit behind the scenes of one of his businesses the high street stationers, Ryman.

Meridian's 1 in 5 ers benefit from Theo's advice

He is worth more than £200m but he is a man who knows what it's like to struggle to find work. Theo Paphitis may be one of Britain's top businessmen, but after leaving school with few qualifications he found it tough to get a job.

There wasn't any cash around ever and any cash that was around you I had to go an earn so nothing came for free. To get a job you have to work at it: if you give up because you've had a few rejections then you might as well stay in bed. expect the rejections and make sure from that you learn.

– Theo Paphitis, Businessman

Sound advice from the retail giant. I'm hoping that meeting Theo Paphitis and seeing what he's achieved will motivate and inspire our young people. Theo believes in breaking things down. He says break it down ... plan it. So decide: What am i going to do this year? what am i going to do this month?

We're following these young jobseekers as they battle to find work. With 1 in 5 16-24 year olds unemployed it's a depressing statistic, but with Theo's top tips and a visit to see behind the scenes of one of his most successful companies - hopefully it will help them along their way

When asked by Freddie Green What do you look for in an employee when you interview someone? Theo did not hesitate in replying:

I always like people that are passionate about what they do. So if you come to an interview an bore the pants off me and you're not passionate about the job you're coming to do I don't care what qualifications you've got you ain't getting a job.

– Theo Paphitis answers Freddie Green's question
Theo Paphitis gave our 1 in 5ers a look behind the scenes of a large firm

Theo Paphitis employs around 3,000 people across his many businesses, one of them being the high street stationer Ryman. So we're here in Crewe at the firm's HQ. It's a chance to look behind the scenes and for our young people to get a real understanding of how a retail organisation like this works. At Crewe our young people met the top team working there. It allowed our jobseekers to tap into their years of experience and expertise.

  • Terry Maywood, Operations Director told them: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression and making sure your appearance is right when you go for an interview is crucial.
  • "Simon Lakin Finance DIrector said: "The first 60 secs in an interview are crucial for the interviewer."
  • Vicky McKenna the Buying Director told our young group that she was in a similar position when she was first looking for work and she offered her services for free to a company. She also stressed that doing your research before an interview is crucial. Make sure you know as much as you can about the company.
  • Lesley Gregory told them to do more than was asked of them in the job, to go the extra mile and to grab any opportunity, even if it is not something you want - any experience is valuable and who knows what else it could lead to.
  • Sarah Cheetam said as much work experience as possible is great and what she looks for in a potential employee is that spark and passion it is not always about the qualifications.
  • Mark Pickford showed our group around the huge distribution warehouse explaining how they deliver all over the country, do online orders, and keep track of stock.
  • Understanding the world of business and how organisations, however large or small, work is a huge advantage for any jobseeker.

Understanding the world of business and how organisations, however large or small, work is a huge advantage for any jobseeker.

Since we last saw them, Physics graduate, Freddie Green is waiting to hear back from a couple of interviews: "I am just keeping my fingers crossed. I have taken what we learnt with Lee McQueen and other episodes on board which has really helped."

Greg Peel spent more than 18 months looking for work, He's recently started an apprenticeship working at his local Co op store.

It's much better than doing nothing , anything would be beneficial, anything is a step up from being unemployed

– Greg Peel, Apprentice
In depth advice for job seekers

OShane Clarke is coming to the end of his Customer Service apprenticeship. He** **told Theo Paphitis he couldn't get a job. He said: "I got offered an apprenticeship I thought it would be a good back up to have."

Apprenticeships are something Theo supports massively.

"*I love work based learning I love apprenticeships because you're on the job doing the work and you're earning and you're learning a relevant skill. It's the most focused learning that you'll ever get. Having a degree now guarantees you nothing" *

– Theo Paphitis, Businessman

Hearing a few home truths from Theo Paphitis and visiting his company's HQ has given our group plenty to think about.

  • Oli Gibson says: "It struck me when Theo said you don't get to where you want to in a straight line, it is more if a wiggle. I had not thought about it like that before but it is true."
  • Freddie Green says: "Theo Paphitis made me think about trying out lots of different things and that you don't just have to do one thing."
  • Si Massiah said: "He talked about being focused and driven which is what I am going to do."
  • Becky Cross said: "It was really useful meeting the team in Crewe they had really good sound advice."

So inspired and motivated - they're determined to get onto the jobs ladder.