Sovereign showcases their inclusive apprenticeship programme for Lord Touhig

Sovereign showcases their inclusive apprenticeship programme for Lord Touhig

Date: 7 March 2018

Lord Touhig met apprentices and heard how Sovereign's inclusive approach is helping employees develop their careers.

Lord Touhig, who is a member of the House of Lords and is a tireless autism campaigner, came to the Newbury head office during National Apprenticeship Week, 5-9 March and met 21-year-old Max Green.

Max, who is autistic, joined Sovereign as an apprentice, before securing a job as a Desktop Support Analyst in the IT team.

As well as building an IT career, Max is also an actor and has starred in the BBC's Doctors as well as a film for the National Autistic Society.

Lord Touhig, who is also a Vice President of the National Autistic Society, said: "I was delighted to visit Max at work, meet his colleagues and hear more about Sovereign's apprenticeship scheme.

"I first met Max when he spoke at an event in Parliament last year. I was struck by the many barriers he's faced growing up and how everything changed when he found an employer who was understanding and willing to take a chance on him. Meeting his colleagues, it's clear how well liked and good at his job he is. 

"While more employers are waking up to the potential of autistic people, it's not widespread - just 16% of autistic adults are thought to be in full-time paid employment.

"I hope other employers will be inspired by Max's story and start providing more opportunities and support for autistic people.  With a little understanding and small adjustments to the recruitment process and workplace, autistic adults can be a real asset." 

Sovereign's apprenticeship programme has taken on more than 60 apprentices in the last five years, with many going on to secure permanent jobs varying from trades to finance.

Max said: "Sovereign not only gave me the opportunity to show what I can do, but they gave me the support I was looking for from an employer. Sometimes this was just giving me a bit more time, or it was having a great team around me that I could talk to.

"I was honoured to be able to share my story at an event in Parliament last year, and it was amazing that afterwards Lord Touhig asked to come and see me and where I worked.

"I'm really proud to work for Sovereign and to be involved in the National Autistic Society's campaign to help close the employment gap for autistic people."

Max first met Lord Touhig at an event in Parliament last year, where he gave a speech about his apprenticeship and career at Sovereign.

Lord Touhig also met Max's colleague Lee Tarbox, Chief Executive Ann Santry, Executive Director People and Change Keith Astill and Learning and Development Director Corinna Grace.

Corinna, whose team oversee the apprenticeship programme, said: "Max is such a fantastic ambassador, both for Sovereign and for the National Autistic Society.

"When I met Max on one of our apprentice recruitment days, he really impressed me with his confidence and I knew he'd be a star here. Along with his manager and team, we worked together to make sure Max had the support around him and he's really grown from an apprentice and is carving out a great career for himself".

Autism affects everyone differently and not all autistic people are able to work. But many are and are desperate to find a job which reflects their talent and interests. The National Autistic Society suggests that the barriers are in large part due to lingering misconceptions around what autism is, as well as companies not knowing where to go for support and being worried about getting it wrong.

The National Autistic Society have launched a campaign to help close the employment gap for autistic people, which includes Max's film. 

Sovereign manages more than 56,000 homes across the south and south west of England, making them the sixth largest housing association in the country.

Sovereign build around 1,400 new homes a year, with the majority affordable, and provide a maintenance service as well as a range of housing and support services.

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