DiversityNE is part-funded
by the European Social Fund and North of Tyne Combined Authority.

'Growing the power and potential of a neurodiverse workforce'

LANDING a role in catering was the objective for Nathan Walmsley when he signed up to employability programme DiversityNE.

The 27-year-old enrolled on the scheme - which is delivered by the North East Autism Society’s Employment Futures provision and Azure Charitable Services – in September 2021.

And within just two months of being referred by the Jobcentre, Nathan had completed a successful work trial and been offered a full-time role working in Azure’s Garden Centre Café.

Now, six months on, Nathan is thriving in his new role and credits the programme, along with Employment Specialist Brian Hunt, with helping him to succeed.

“I found out about DiversityNE through friends and through the JobCentre,” says Nathan, from Morpeth. “I met with Brian once a week and we would chat about what type of jobs I would be interested in and worked to get my CV to a better place.”

Since starting in November, Nathan has gone from strength to strength in the role and says his favourite part of the job is the mornings because it is quiet and he can concentrate on his duties before customers start to arrive.

He adds: “I arrive at 8am every morning, I make scones to be sold in the cafe, I prepare anything that needs to be done behind the counter of the café and then I see if anything needs refilling and bring in deliveries.”

Before securing his role at Azure Garden Centre in Cramlington, Nathan had previously completed work experience in a number of catering environments. 

It was this passion for catering that Brian focused on when considering suitable placements and vacancies for Nathan – and it wasn’t long before the perfect opportunity arose within Azure’s own services.

Brian also worked with Nathan to develop his CV and practice interview skills, as well as continuing to support him in his current role by regularly visiting him on site and being available to contact for advice

“When Nathan first came to us, the first thing I asked him to do was send his CV and that was very much centred around the catering industry,” Brian says. “He had up to a level 3 in catering and hospitality at NVQ, which was great.

“So then we talked about what type of environment he wanted to work in and from there we did some job searches. Nathan had a couple of interviews and then the vacancy became available at Azure. I thought that would be a perfect fit for him and he’s never looked back.”

Nathan says he would recommend the programme to other people who may be struggling to secure full-time employment, adding: “I would say to give it a go, get some work experience, boost your confidence and it’ll make you feel better.”

“I’ve noticed that Nathan’s confidence has really increased,” Brian adds “At the beginning he was very quiet, but we started to build up a rapport in the one-to-one sessions.

“When we applied for a couple of jobs and he actually got interviews that seemed to boost his confidence a little bit more, and then when he was offered the work trial at Azure, that helped get him to the point where he thought ‘I can do this’.” 

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