Employment Futures

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

Losing your job is a difficult enough life change to process, but at the end of last year Jake Thomson found himself facing not only that, but the daunting prospect of learning to walk again following a serious accident.

Jake, from Hartlepool, worked as a chef for six years before he was made redundant last September, due to the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the hospitality sector.

However he then faced another major setback after suffering a near-fatal fall in December 2020, which left him unable to walk and in need of intense rehabilitation.

While the 25-year-old has had to come to terms with the fact that he may not be able to return to work as a chef as a result of his injuries, Jake says he has felt supported through this incredibly difficult period thanks to the North East Autism Society’s Personal Mentor Programme (PMP).

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. 

Jake, who was diagnosed autistic as a child, has received advice and guidance from Mary Murton, who is part of the North East Autism Society’s Employment Futures team, and credits her with reigniting his ambition for the future.

“Being Part of the PMP programme at the same time I was told I might not be able to work as a chef again was really good as Mary my mentor helped me process the thoughts and feelings of how this would affect my job prospects,” he says.

And while Jake still has a long road ahead of him, he is feeling far more positive about the future and says Mary has helped him to recognise the wealth of transferrable he has. 

I have been able to do research into different career fields and study, and even complete a few online courses, with more planned over the coming months, while I’ve been unable to work due to my health. 

“But Mary has helped me to realise how transferrable my skills from being a chef are to be able to work in a whole host of different industries, for example business management. I even discovered some skills I didn’t realise I had by completing the Buzz Quiz.” 

During one-to-one sessions, Mary was also able to help Jake develop digital skills and even helped to secure him a laptop via the programme, which has proved invaluable while Jake recovers.

Speaking about Jake’s progress, she says: “Jake was digitally disconnected so we also worked on getting him a laptop. He was then able to access online training and we sourced a range of online learning platforms for him. From this, Jake developed an interest in business. He decided to start retraining in business admin and this is now ongoing.”

Jake was referred to the PMP last year, by his Universal Credit Work Coach, and says he would “100 per cent recommend” the initiative to anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation.

I learned a lot about myself through being part of the programme. And I have spent a great deal of time thinking about what line of work I would like to pursue once my health allows.

“At the moment, I am keeping my options open. However the programme has increased my confidence massively and I feel positive about pursuing a new career path when the time is right.”