Employment Futures

Employment Futures exists to help remove barriers to meaningful employment for autistic adults and/or those with learning difficulties.

After 25 years as a tattoo artist, Mark Champion’s confidence was knocked when he found himself out of work four years ago. But, thanks to the support he received from the North East Autism Society, Mark is once again feeling positive about the future. 

Mark, from Middlesbrough, says he was struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel before enrolling on the Personal Mentor Programme (PMP), which is facilitated by NEAS’s Employment Futures service.

The keen artist was referred to the scheme by his Disability Employment Advisor as, not only was Mark dealing with anxiety when it came to his future career prospects, he was also going through the autism diagnostic process.

“I was struggling personally,” Mark, 50, recalls. “Then the Personal Mentor Programme was suggested to me by the Job Centre, and from the very first meeting I just felt at ease. 

The support I received was great and the team really took the time to find out more about me and what interests me. It was much more than just generic advice.

The Personal Mentor Programme offers one-to-one specialist support for autistic individuals, or those with other examples of neurodiversity, across the North-east, with the aim of empowering clients to secure employment.

Having gone through the process, Mark says the one-to-one support he received has completely transformed his outlook and equipped him with the tools he needs to be able to re-enter the workforce in the coming months.

The future is definitely brighter. The programme has been fantastic and given me the hope and belief that I have something to offer in the future.

With the support of Employment Specialist Barrie Lund, not only has Mark taken practical steps such as updating his CV, but he has also enrolled on a winter university graphic design course, which he is completing remotely due to the ongoing pandemic.

“I never would have considered doing a course like that before PMP,” Mark adds. “Barrie and his team really give you that push, along with the realisation that you can actually still offer something, because it can be daunting when you are my age.

“The course has opened a door for me, and I am now thinking about going full time.”

Barrie also met with Mark on a weekly basis to help him gain a stronger understanding of autism and neurodiversity, and to focus on building his confidence.

Asked if he’d recommend the Personal Mentor Programme to anyone in a similar position, Mark says he would, but acknowledges that it can be hard to find the right support.

“It’s not easy, to be honest,” Mark says. "People either don’t know this help is out there, or it can be hard to know how to access the support that is available.

But I would 100 per cent recommend the Personal Mentor Programme. It has given me more than just confidence, I now feel like I have a path to follow.

Click here for more information on Employment Futures.

Alternatively, call 0191 4109 974.