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  • Writer's pictureGerry Monaghan

Embracing neurodiversity is not a trend or a buzz phrase

Nerodiverse group of people in colorful collage-

Embracing neurodiversity is not a trend or a buzz phrase; it’s a fundamental shift in how we think about talent. When our social enterprise began in 2001, the Northern Ireland job market was unwelcoming to people with different abilities. It lacked support for skills learning and work experience for individuals with autism and other learning difficulties, effectively excluding them from the workforce.

Fortunately, the conversation on neurodiversity has rapidly changed, with language now acknowledging the unique ways in which people perceive and respond to the world. These differences should be embraced. However, it is crucial that this conversation translates into action that helps everyone find their place in the workforce. Our mission to assist people in achieving this has led to an increased demand for our services as employers recognise the value of diversity in their staff.

During Manufacturing Month, business owners are challenged to tap into the full spectrum of human potential as a strategic imperative. Neurodiverse individuals bring a unique set of strengths and perspectives to the table, enriching teams and driving innovation in ways we may never have imagined.

At NOW Group, we have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of embracing neurodiversity. By creating inclusive environments where individuals of all abilities feel valued and supported, we have unlocked a wealth of untapped talent. People with autism, dyslexia, and other neurodivergences possess exceptional attention to detail and unparalleled problem-solving skills, making them valuable assets in sectors such as manufacturing.

To facilitate the success of neurodiverse individuals in the workforce, we must create environments where they can thrive. This involves providing tailored support and accommodations for both the candidate and the employer, ensuring that each placement is a success. Whether it's flexible work arrangements, specialised training programs, or access to assistive technologies, investing in the well-being and professional development of neurodiverse employees is not just the right thing to do—it's also good for business.

In 2023-24, NOW Group supported 1800 participants and placed 156 people with disabilities into jobs with a future. Over 40 of these jobs were in manufacturing companies, including production operatives, forklift drivers, cleaning, business services, and digital roles. It is time to break down the stigma faced by disabled people when job searching. Often, employers have concerns that staff with disabilities will take more sick leave or struggle to maintain their jobs. However, with the right placement and support, NOW Group boasts an impressive 93% retention rate at 6 months.

In a market with almost full employment and a high demand for talent, NOW Group collaborates with partners across sectors to create good jobs for individuals who have never had the opportunity before. This approach works because it simply makes good business sense.

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