Date: 04/02/2021

Armin Behbin shares his remarkable journey from living in a disruptive hostel at 16 to mastering his A-Levels and joining our management trainee scheme.

Armin Behbin is one of our most recent intakes onto Fortem’s coveted Management Trainee programme. The scheme aims to equip ambitious, talented and driven individuals with the skills and experience needed to achieve their goals. Armin is a HR specialist on the programme, which supports his career aspirations and allows him to gain external qualifications while receiving internal coaching and mentoring. He shares his inspiring story.

Exceptionally challenging living circumstances

Armin explains:

“I had to leave home at 16 whilst I was preparing for my GCSEs. Having entered into a system to provide me with a safe place to stay, I found myself staying in a hostel in Hertfordshire. This continued to be my living situation for just over 22 months with around 12-15 other young people from different situations with a range of different needs.”

“I found the hostel to be a very challenging living situation. Over half of the people staying at the hostel were unemployed and not in education or training, with limited activity to fill their days. This led to the hostel being noisy, especially throughout the night as many stayed up partying and playing music until the early hours of the morning, with no reason to wake up the following day. The hostel was often a hostile place with the police making regular visits to other residents, drugs and alcohol abuse was prevalent as well as anti-social behaviour.”

“I knew this was not where I wanted to be or how I wanted my life to progress, which made me even more determined to further my education. I completed my GCSEs and went on to sixth form, studying Psychology, Sociology and English Literature and Language. I graduated in the summer of 2020, achieving three Bs. During my time in the hostel, I was committed to positively furthering my future and leaving my living situation behind.”

Finding his feet and grabbing opportunities

Armin came to hear of Fortem through their sister company Willmott Dixon. “I attended an employability event at my school, this was attended by Natalie Sidey, Willmott Dixon’s Social Value Manager for the London and East region. I spoke with Natalie at the end of the day, explaining my living situation and that I simply couldn’t wait to work. I think she was impressed by my determination to overcome the barriers imposed on me and further myself.”

Armin completed 2 work experience placements with the company. The first one was within the social value and sustainability team at Hitchin, and then with the Learning and Development Team.

“Before meeting Natalie, I hadn’t considered the wealth of opportunity the property management industry offers, and that they extend far beyond the construction site’s boundaries. Although a little daunting at first, I found my feet and grasped the opportunity with both hands. I attended careers events and employability workshops as well as spending time working on an inclusion and diversity project. These opportunities allowed me to develop my interpersonal skills as well as learning more about the industry.”

Natalie has spent more than 90 hours mentoring Armin throughout his A-Levels, whilst also helping him with housing applications

Joining the Fortem Family

“During the summer, Natalie suggested I applied for the Fortem Management Trainee scheme. I read about the company and Fortem stood out to me because of the way they chose to invest in their people and that loyalty impressed me. It was evident their ethos and values ran through the business and I knew that was a company I could see myself in.”

Armin recalls the recruitment process, “All the candidates at the assessment day were welcoming and friendly; a complete personification of Fortem’s values and that made it evident that Fortem was different. The candidates had a range of backgrounds and expertise, with many holding higher level qualifications or more experience than me. Despite the competition, I must have impressed as I was offered a position as an HR Specialist within the programme. I knew this was the role for me.”

“Growing up I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with all sorts of people which has allowed me to adapt and develop my people skills as well as linking well to the A-levels I completed. I am looking to continuing to grow myself and I aspire to be very skilled in HR so I can confidently assist any employee, whilst increasing wellbeing in the organisation. It’s almost like a domino effect, all I want to do is help people and make a difference, and that one act which may seem small to me, has the potential to go on and have a big impact on someone else. This is a key focus for me as I’ve seen first-hand how poor mental health can have impacts on attendance, sickness, work-life balance and productivity.”

Armin was one of 19 Trainees selected to be on the Management Trainee scheme in 2020

Introducing Armin - HR Specialist

“During my time at Fortem so far, I have already seen growth within myself. It’s really strange coming from school and adapting to the workplace, it’s so busy and there is so much to learn.”

“At the moment I’m working within admin to learn and familiarise myself with the processes, before moving onto more ER [Employee Relations] so I’m definitely curious to get stuck in with the new challenges that will involve. It’s also not lost on me that I’ve joined the company at a bizarre time, so I’m intrigued by what HR will be like post-pandemic, as it currently affects the workload I complete daily!”

It’s clear that Armin has found his place when he speaks with pride about his new role, “It is more than a 9-5 for me; it is my team, the conversations we have – they are like a family to me. Despite being busy, Sonya [Head of HR] always makes time for weekly meetings and that is so important to me.”

Fortem has really helped Armin start to develop his personal and career growth

Looking to the Future

When asked about the future, Armin explains how he doesn’t want to get too lost looking long term and miss what is happening in the present, “I don’t want to be anywhere else but here. HR is what I enjoy, and I just want to be focussed on doing the best I can, at what I’m currently doing. That said, I hope to complete my level 3 and 5 CIPD qualification and eventually become an ER Specialist, but 4 years is a long way ahead and who knows what opportunities will be available by the time I complete my traineeship.”

“After starting in September, I am enjoying the role and learning a wealth of news skills. With a consistent wage, I have been able to move into private rented accommodation and I can’t wait to have a place of my own. I’ve completed a variety of different training from how to minute take to excel skills, as well as HR courses. It’s really challenging, and some processes are really complex with so many steps, but if it isn’t difficult you aren’t learning and that’s the rewarding aspect of it. I am still learning and improving.”

“I will always be grateful for the opportunity Fortem has provided me to not only become very knowledgeable in HR but to develop my current skills further. Helping people is my ambition and is the fundamental reason why the role HR is the core of my heart, as it enables me to be in a team, that I believe is the heart of the business.”

Staying positive in difficult times

“I am often asked how I got through the most difficult times of living at the hostel and what drove me to gain an education and resist drugs and alcohol, despite the constant pressures. I kept telling myself ‘what would Armin in ten years’ time say to me, the one with a house, car and fantastic career – to be brave, be bold and be Armin’. This drive and knowing that this is not how my life is going to be really kept me going throughout the most difficult of times – as well as regular trips to the gym! I challenge anyone who is feeling their life is not leading in the direction they want, to reach out, to make positive change and keep true to their aspirations.”