Maureen is an assistant at O'Brien's coffee and sandwich bar and is often to be found serving at the company's café at George Best Belfast City Airport. And whilst her bosses have always recognised the excellent job she does, it's the extra care and attention she offers to customers that won her the nomination.
"Right from the start, Maureen has gone above and beyond our usual and excellent standards of service," said boss Kris Martin. "Customers now ask for her by name and tell me what a pleasure it has been to be served by her. Not only does she ensure they receive everything they have asked for, quickly and efficiently, Maureen shows genuine care for those people she meets every day. Without exception, her colleagues all have positive things to say about her. She's a great asset to our team."
The ceremony took place recently at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast, where O'Brien's staff assembled for the glitzy awards event.
"Kris insisted I go along and sit at a table close to the stage, and I now know why!" added Maureen. "I don't usually drink, but as soon as I heard my name being read out I grabbed the nearest glass of champagne to help calm my nerves!
Maureen got her job after she signed up for Steps 2 Success, the Department for Communities' adult employment programme which helps unemployed people build the skills and experience required to find and keep a job. Steps 2 Success is delivered in Belfast by employment specialists Ingeus in partnership with Armstrong Works, People 1st and Springvale Employment and Learning. On the programme Maureen learnt about the skills needed to get a job, such as building an impressive CV, understanding what employers look for in their new recruits, and saying the right things when being interviewed for a vacancy. It's a formula that worked, and nine months later Maureen says it's the best thing she ever did.
"I've never looked back since getting my job," she said. "Working gives me financial independence, confidence and a sense of well-being. There's something to look forward to every day, I'm always meeting new people and I really enjoy chatting to them whilst doing my job. It's the best thing that ever happened to me!"
Advisor Ruth McKeown from Ingeus helped Maureen get her job with O'Brien's, and has stayed in touch ever since, offering support and ensuring everything goes smoothly. "It was clear from the first time we met that she was going to be a great employee," Ruth said. "Her motivation to work and the life skills she had acquired all suggested she would make an excellent addition to the team at O'Brien's. Now, being named Employee of the Year, she has certainly proved her case.
"This is also a great illustration of how we can support employers in Belfast by understanding their needs, too. Through Steps 2 Success, we can provide good candidates, like Maureen, who have the right mix of ability, experience and commitment to fill their jobs. The initiative is supporting a wide range of other local businesses as they seek to expand and, as a result, providing a boost to the Northern Ireland economy."
Further information on Steps2Success is available at www.nidirect.gov.uk/steps2success.