Employment Futures

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

AFTER losing her job of 10 years, Nicola Todd struggled to find suitable employment – but support from the North East Autism Society has given her hope for the future.

The 39-year-old worked at the Roman shower factory, where she made shower panels, boxes and screw packs, for 10 years before she was made redundant in 2011.

In the years since, Nicola picked up casual work as a cleaner in a care home, but she has struggled to find anything more permanent to suit her needs. 

“I really enjoyed working at the shower factory,” Nicola, from Newton Aycliffe, says. “When you have been in a job for 10 years, you think you have a job for life, so it was really hard being made redundant. 

I found it hard to find work after that, and 11 years is a long time to be struggling.

Nicola was thrown a lifeline at the end of last year though when she was referred to the Personal Mentor Programme (PMP) by the job centre.

The programme is delivered by the North East Autism Society’s Employment Futures provision and aims to help neurodiverse adults back into employment.

Over the course of six months, Nicola was supported by Employment Specialist Michael Knaggs and would take part in weekly telephone appointments with her mentor to discuss her career goals, ambitions and progress. 

She completed modules such as the Do It Profiler, which aims to uncover skills and abilities that participants can utilise, and worked through aspects of job searching including positive disclosure regarding her learning difficulties.

“Nicola engaged very well throughout her time on PMP, she has learning difficulties which meant it was important that information was provided in a way she could understand, and I believe benefitted from a relaxed and patient approach,” Michael says.

Nicola has grown in confidence during her time working with me and am sure she will secure her dream of paid employment in the future.

Nicola was also able to secure a Lenovo tablet, which has made a huge difference in how she accesses her Universal Credit journal and searches for vacancies, after Michael referred her to the Digital Inclusion Programme.

“I first met Michael around November last year,” Nicola says. “He was really helpful and is really great at his job. I don’t feel anxious or panicky anymore.” 

Thanks to the support she received via the PMP, Nicola secured a job interview for a housekeeping role at Redworth Hall earlier this year. However the job was sadly not quite the right fit for Nicola, who has learning difficulties.

Michael gave me some really good tips for interviews that helped me to keep calm while I was in there.

He told me to keep smiling, make sure I don’t repeat myself and even what type of questions to ask at the end.

While Nicola is still searching for the right job, she says she is feeling far more positive about the future thanks to the support and advice she received from Michael and would recommend the programme to anyone in a similar position. 

“I enjoy cleaning and helping people so that’s what I’d like to do,” Nicola says. “And Michael told me I should try to find something that I will enjoy.

“Other people who are struggling to find work could definitely benefit from working with someone like Michael.”

Click here to find out more about Employment Futures