Left to right: Jonathan Mc Murray, Mentor, Specialisterne NI, Sharon Didrichsen, MD, Specialisterne NI, Minister Burns, Adam Craig, Elaine Stephens, Head of Programmes, Specialisterne NI, Karl Ritchie.
On a visit to Northern Ireland in the run up to Autism Acceptance Month, the Minister of State for Northern Ireland visited social enterprise Specialisterne NI and met with autistic people to discuss how the government may support autistic people to secure and progress in careers. The Minister met with autistic people at the Specialisterne NI offices who attended both in person and via Zoom.
The Minister heard about the experiences of members of the autistic community at Specialisterne NI and was curious to learn more about ‘Count Me IN,’ a new programme funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund. Count Me IN pilots Specialisterne NI’s community model of employability support, which has been developed with the autistic community at Specialisterne, and which has enjoyed success with reported increases in confidence, feeling represented and socially connected, and which has led to many members of the community starting out on and progressing in careers across diverse sectors in N Ireland. For the first time, Count Me IN brings this community model of employability support to people who are autistic and to people who are otherwise neurodivergent, including people who are dyslexic, and people who have ADHD, OCD, Dyspraxia or Tourette’s Syndrome.
Members of the community advised the Minister on some of the key issues faced by autistic people in N Ireland. These included waiting times to receive a diagnosis, autistic women being misdiagnosed or not receiving a diagnosis (autistic women can present autistic traits differently to men), and support needed for teachers and GPs to have a better understanding and awareness of autism and neurodiversity. The Minister also heard from Jonathan McMurray, a mentor at Specialisterne NI, who shared about his employment journey, and, alongside others, commented on the added value autistic people can offer an employer such as unique insights, appreciations and approaches to tasks.
The Minister mentioned how the autistic community at Specialisterne was an example of a community ‘levelling up.’ A member of the autistic community commented ‘To the Minister’s point, programmes like Specialisterne offer are like ‘levelling up,’ they’re also like ‘taking back control’ to use another popular phrase, i.e., as an autistic person I get to take back control of my own life through the programmes!’
One member of the autistic community relayed to the Minister how, upon receiving a diagnosis of autism and asking ‘What services and organisations exist to support me?’, they were told there weren’t any. They added: ‘I only came across Specialisterne and the ALL2gether group at Specialisterne by chance through a twitter post about their services. Being involved in the ALL2gether group is brilliant, and has definitely helped me a lot with both building my confidence and having a sense of community’
Part of an international network that works across 15 countries, Specialisterne is a pioneer of ‘Autism at Work’, an international movement, which supports companies to identify and reduce the barriers autistic people face entering the workplace. It also helps companies to develop working environments that help autistic people thrive at work.
Sharon Didrichsen, Founder and Managing Director at Specialisterne NI, shared with the Minister the journey of the autistic community at Specialisterne NI to date, and how listening to the autistic community had been fundamental in supporting autistic people to overcome barriers to careers, and has led to a community which supports each other to get ready for and secure careers, to thrive in the workplace and to progress up the career ladder. ‘We enjoyed meeting with the Minister today who got to experience the autistic community at Specialisterne and hear first-hand the different experiences of members of the community. It was good to discuss the different challenges members of the autistic community can face and how the government may assist with these, and to share with the Minister how the autistic community can solve longstanding barriers to employment simply by working together. In the words of a member of the autistic community at Specialisterne ‘We don’t need therapy; we just need each other.’’
Following his visit Minister of State for Northern Ireland Conor Burns said:
“I feel extremely privileged to have been able to meet some of the dedicated & passionate people who support Specialisterne NI’s ‘Count Me IN’ programme during my visit.
“This programme does brilliant work in supporting and helping neurodivergent people who are unemployed or economically inactive prepare for and secure employment. I’m proud that the Government is able to support some of those people that I have met today to start, or take the next step in, their career with funding the UK Community Renewal Fund.”
Specialisterne NI is a Community Interest Company, which is not for private profit, and which is part of the Specialisterne international network. Specialisterne NI works to support neurodivergent people. It also helps employers recruit and retain neurodivergent people and grow diverse effective teams.
Founded in Belfast in 2014, Specialisterne NI has a team of 14 who support neurodivergent people and employers so that more neurodivergent people secure and sustain better careers.
Count Me IN is a programme for neurodivergent people to start out on or continue careers, which is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.
For more information contact Sharon Didrichsen Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: 07565 936191 Website: www.specialisterneni.com Address: Specialisterne NI, Skainos, 239 Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 1AF
We are delighted to launch Consider IT for a second year! A Bring IT ON initiative, Consider IT connects people working in IT (including neurodivergent people) across difference companies, types of IT roles, and levels of roles, with people who are autistic or otherwise neurodivergent who are considering careers in IT. Last year, the programme was so popular (with employers, mentors and participants) we doubled the numbers attending, with many participants considering working in IT for the first time! Hearing people’s stories was a catalyst for change for many, leading to applying to new jobs, and for many, starting out in a completely new career. One participant commented:
‘Specialisterne encourages blue sky thinking and gives you a safe space in which it is possible to do so.’
For more details of Consider IT, or to take part as an employer, mentor, or participant, please get in touch. You will be very welcome!
Social Impact Partner
Specialisterne NI is a not for private profit social enterprise which is part of the Specialisterne international network, which has the aim of 1 million careers for autistic people. Specialisterne NI has worked since 2014 to support autistic people to get ready for, secure, and progress in rewarding careers. Specialisterne is frequently referenced in research as a case study of good practice.
Specialisterne NI is welcoming Expressions of Interests to be a Social Impact Partner for the following programmes:
All2gether, an autistic adult community which runs until November 2023.
Dot to Dot, a new autistic community across primary schools which runs until March 2024.
Count Me IN, an employability programme which runs until June 2022.
The Social Impact Partner may also be considered for social impact measurement of other programmes during the period up until March 2024.
- In-depth knowledge of impact assessment and methodologies
- Demonstrated ability to put participants in the lead.
- Demonstrated ability to use quantitative and qualitative impact assessment tools
- A creative approach to problem-solving related to social impact measurement.
- Demonstrated ability to tailor impact measurement according to participants’ communication preferences.
- Demonstrated ability to advise on impact collection in a way that is sustainable, systematic, practical and which adds value
- Study related to social impact measurement at 3rd level
- Demonstrated understanding of impact evaluation where participants are on the autistic spectrum
- Knowledge of autism and of the daily life experience of autistic people
- Experience in carrying out surveys, focus groups and other impact evaluation methods with autistic adults and autistic children and young people.
- Experience in evaluating participant-led programmes.
- Preparation of impact reports for different stakeholders for example, funders, government, media, autistic communities, and in various formats, for example, an easy-to-read report.
Selection and Shortlisting
The above shortlisting criteria will be applied.
- Expressions of interest will be assessed in accordance with the above criteria. It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide evidence in the expression of interest of how well they meet these criteria.
- Specialisterne NI reserves the right to apply the above desirable criteria for shortlisting purposes, in the order in which they appear.
For further details please see
Please send an expression of interest to Sharon Didrichsen at Sharond@specialisterne.com before 28 March at 5pm.
Mobile 07565 936191
ALL2gether is funded by the National Community Lottery Fund.
Dot to Dot is funded by the Department of Health Mental Health Fund/the Community Foundation
Count Me IN is funded by the UK Government through the Community Renewal Fund.
Specialisterne Northern Ireland is a not-for-private-profit community interest company which supports autistic people and people with other neurodivergent conditions to get ready for, secure, sustain and progress in careers. As part of the international Specialisterne network which pioneered the Autism at Work movement and which spans thirty-two cities in fifteen countries for seventeen years, we partner with leading employers internationally to work towards the goal of one million careers for autistic people and people with other neurodivergent conditions.
This is a unique opportunity to use client facing skills to support diversity and inclusion.
This post is funded by Dormant Accounts NI.
The Corporate Accounts Executive (Diversity and Inclusion) will support the Specialisterne international mission of enabling 1 million jobs for autistic people and people with other neurodivergent conditions through development of services with employers, colleges and universities. The Corporate Accounts Executive will:
- Increase awareness of the talents and value autistic and neurodivergent people bring to employers.
- Identify and support new corporate, college and university clients.
- Contribute to the design and development of the Specialisterne NI corporate, college/university service portfolio.
Working closely with the Specialisterne NI leadership team, the Corporate Accounts Executive (Diversity and Inclusion) will:
- Contact companies, colleges and universities and arrange to meet to discuss how Specialisterne NI may help in relation to neurodiversity and discuss the client’s experiences in relation to neurodiversity.
- With the leadership team, develop proposals which are tailored to each client need.
- Be the first point of contact for corporate clients, in relation to training, recruitment, in work support, assessment. mentoring and other corporate services.
- Together with the Specialisterne leadership team, raise awareness of neurodiversity and of Specialisterne NI services which support diversity and inclusion.
- Experience in sales, marketing and/or PR.
- Study in a relevant subject area at undergraduate or post graduate level (this includes currently studying or completed). Relevant subject areas are Marketing, PR, Sales, Business development, Psychology, Business Studies, Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion, Autism, ADHD/ADD, OCD, Tourette’s Syndrome, Dyslexia.
- Experience in supporting corporate clients.
- Demonstrated commitment to client-led solutions.
- Demonstrated interest in Diversity and Inclusion.
- Demonstrated interest in Autism, ADHD/ADD, OCD, Tourette’s Syndrome, Dyslexia.
- Experience in documentation of work according to quality standards.
- Demonstrated willingness to learn.
- A driving licence or ability to travel to various locations when required.
Terms and Conditions
- 37.5 hours weekly. Hours typically between 9am-5pm, Monday -Friday.
- Location: Currently working from home, moving to office based once the current restrictions are lifted. The Specialisterne NI offices are located at Skainos, 239 Newtownards Road, Belfast.
- The position is fixed term until 31 October 2024. Salary range: £23,000- £30,000, commensurate with experience.
- This post is funded by the Dormant Accounts Fund NI.
- This post is a fixed term contract until 31 October 2024.
- Specialisterne NI is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, young people, and vulnerable adults. Employment to this post is therefore subject to an Access NI Enhanced Check.
- Specialisterne NI is an equal opportunities employer.
- Interested applicants should send a Curriculum Vitae and covering letter. You should detail in the covering letter how you meet the essential and desirable criteria.
- to Sharon Didrichsen, Managing Director, Specialisterne NI by email: email@example.com
- Closing date for applications: 31 January 2022 at 11:59pm.
- For additional information regarding Specialisterne NI, visit specialisterneni.com or contact Sharon Didrichsen at firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile 07565 936191.
- This post is a re-advertisement with amended criteria.
Selection & Short listing
- Applicants for the post of Corporate Accounts Executive (Diversity and Inclusion) will be assessed in accordance with the above criteria. The CV and covering letter, outlining how they meet the set criteria, submitted will form part of the assessment process. It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide evidence in this form and at assessment of how well they meet the criteria.
- Applicants will be shortlisted for interview only on the basis of information provided. Specialisterne will shortlist only those candidates who, from the information supplied, best demonstrate that the candidate meets the essential and, if required, the desirable criteria.
- Course subject areas will be examined further to determine relevance to the position being advertised. This will be used as an additional method of shortlisting.
- Specialisterne reserves the right if required to apply the above desirable criteria for shortlisting purposes, in the order in which they appear.
- Specialisterne may operate a reserve list for future vacancies (either at this level or lower levels) which may arise within Specialisterne. The reserve list is maintained for 6 months.
If you are autistic, or otherwise neurodivergent, we invite you to join one of our fully funded programmes in 2022. For further details please click on the links below.