A PIONEERING employment event to support autistic jobseekers has been staged in a partnership between a North-East charity and one of the region’s biggest councils.

The inaugural ‘Disability Confident Information and Employability Event’ was organised by the North East Autism Society (NEAS) – through its Employment Futures department – alongside Newcastle City Council’s economic development team.

The pilot, held in the banqueting suite of Newcastle Civic Centre, was attended by 42 neurodivergent jobseekers and nine key ‘disability confident’ employers.

Rachael Leisk, Employment Engagement Officer for NEAS, described it as “a huge success” and there are now hopes it can become a regular event.

The idea was initiated by Rachael after she saw how traditional jobs fairs are challenging for neurodivergent people because they tend to be busy, noisy and unstructured.

Following talks with Newcastle City Council, it was agreed to experiment with an event that would minimise the sensory and communication challenges facing neurodivergent people.

The banqueting suite of Newcastle Civic Centre provided a quieter, more spacious environment in which lights could be dimmed, while questions were supplied in advance for mock interviews to build the confidence of those seeking work.

Employers were given presentations ahead of the event to give them a better understanding of the adjustments that can help neurodivergent people, as well as the strengths they bring to the workplace. Every jobseeker taking part is receiving constructive feedback on their interviews.

“The jobseekers who came were very anxious, but it was a really positive experience in building their confidence for live interviews, and it will hopefully lead to employment for some,” said Rachael.

“Many of the employers were touched by the autistic people they met, and gained a much better understanding of how neurodivergent people can be an asset to an organisation. This was a pilot, but we’d like to run it again, and make it part of the service we offer.”

One of those attending the event, David Nicholson, 21, from Gosforth, has been on the YesNE programme since May, and has ambitions to be a self-employed joiner. He said: “The programme and events like today are helpful in meeting employers, and this has given me a boost of confidence.”

Employers taking part were: HM Revenue and Customs, Newcastle Building Society, Newcastle City Council, Northumbria Police, Newcastle NHS Trust, Stagecoach, Sage Software, Percy Hedley Foundation, and Your Homes Newcastle.

Further support came from: North of Tyne Combined Authority, the Department of Work and Pensions, Newcastle United Foundation, Azure Charitable Enterprises, DiversityNE, and Smart Works.

Find out more about Employment Futures