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

'Growing the power and potential of a neurodiverse workforce'

ROBBIE SINGH, 26, had never had paid work before enrolling on DiversityNE, an employability programme aimed at reducing the disability gap.

Within six months of joining, Robbie had secured a placement with Marks & Spencer at their store in Gosforth, Newcastle.

Now he is celebrating after being offered his first ever job - a 12-week contract to work at the retailer over Christmas and New Year.

And he has thanked Philip Hutchinson, his employment advisor at DiversityNE which is delivered by Azure Charitable Enterprises and the North East Autism Society.

“I enjoyed working with Philip. I worked hard when the opportunity came and was pleased to get a contract,” said Robbie, of Slatyford, Newcastle.

Before Robbie started on the programme in March, his only experience was an unpaid work placement which had been cut short after the host employer closed down.

Even though he was keen to find a part-time job in retail, he was not confident job searching initially and worked with Philip to gain the skills and confidence to begin the process.

Robbie had an account to apply for jobs online but hadn’t really done so. He brought along some bookmarked vacancies to show Philip, who identified that they were located a considerable distance from where he lived.

Robbie began to understand all the key elements needed when job searching and that he would need two people to act as referees.

Working together, Robbie and Philip reviewed Robbie’s CV and agreed some alterations to improve it.

Philip said Robbie showed a fantastic attitude. “Robbie has been so incredibly enthusiastic, very engaging and had a real determination,” he said.

“Robbie required support with realistic job expectations but once those skills were honed there was no holding him back.”

After several months of job searching and applications, Philip suggested a slightly different approach via the Prince’s Trust, which was offering a “Getting into Retail with M&S” course.

Robbie was keen and Philip helped him to enrol. He also conducted an interview preparation session with him ahead of a taster day.

The taster resulted in Robbie being offered a four-week placement at M&S in Gosforth in October, which he enjoyed.

Philip attended a celebratory event at the Prince’s Trust for the course, and the M&S representative there spoke very highly of how Robbie had got on with colleagues and customers.

Robbie was later thrilled to share the good news that he had been offered a 12-week contract with M&S, starting 5th November and running until 27th January.

DiversityNE is a project funded by the European Social Fund and North of Tyne Combined Authority to provide tailored support for those who face the biggest barriers to employment.

Find out more about DiversityNE