NORTH of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll visited the DiversityNE employability programme and praised its success at getting autistic and neurodivergent people into work.

The mayor also called on North-East employers to step up their efforts to recruit and support a more diverse workforce.

“Diversity of background and experience means a richer range of knowledge, character, thought and ideas – and what smart employer wouldn’t want that in their workforce?” Mr Driscoll said.

DiversityNE is showing what can be done if you take the right approach.

The scheme, which is aimed at reducing the disability employment gap, is funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority and the European Social Fund and delivered by North East Autism Society and Azure Charitable Enterprises.

By the end of 2022 it had supported 162 participants, four of whom met the mayor during his visit to DiversityNE’s office in North Shields.

Harris Roxborough, 32, got their job at Tyne Tunnels through the scheme. “I heard about the job at TT2 from a friend. When I told my Employment Advisor at DiversityNE, Gary Hankinson, he didn’t give up until I was given a chance. I wouldn’t have the job without him.

“It’s not tokenism at TT2 – they care about you. It’s very difficult to find an employer who supports you. Autism is a recognised condition, so why aren’t employers recognising it?”

Callum Jewell had been unemployed for five years and struggled with anxiety and social interactions before he signed up to DiversityNE.

The scheme built up his confidence to the extent that he could achieve his long-term dream of getting a job with the NHS in a community palliative care team. He said: “I think autistic people can have barriers that make it harder for them to get employment than a neurotypical person.

I think the support and guidance I was given really helped ease my worries and boost my confidence to the point where I could go through a job interview and succeed.

Vicky Pervin, 40, who has a learning difficulty, is such a success as a kitchen assistant with Solehawk care homes she is their current employee of the month.

Meanwhile Michael Milson, 39, who was out of work for seven years after suffering a rare brain tumour, got a job as an IT service desk analyst with the NHS. “DiversityNE helped me in many ways, not just to get a job. They helped me get my confidence back,” Michael said.

Find out more about DiversityNE