North East Connected

North-east man hits the job jackpot thanks to pioneering employment support programme

 “I was beginning to think I was unemployable and this could be a bigger issue for my life.”

These are the harrowing words of 27-year-old local man, James Kodbarlag, who had struggled to find meaningful employment throughout his adult life. Diagnosed with Asperger’s – an autism spectrum condition – James had been unable to secure work but was willing to take hold of every opportunity to do so.

This is where Moving on Tyne & Wear, a charity programme supporting people aged 18 and over who out of work due to health barriers, comes in. The project is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery, through the Big Lottery Fund.

Working with their local expert partners, the organisation started an Innovation Project called Pathways, which specifically focuses on supporting people with autism and/or learning difficulties.

Moving On Tyne & Wear operate five Innovation Projects across Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside. Sunderland’s project, Pathways, provides support aimed at people with autism and or learning difficulties. Due to its success with people like James, this project has just been rolled out across Tyne and Wear.

According to recent data, the North-east and Cumbria has the highest proportion of people registered with learning challenges (in proportion to GP surgeries). To add to this, Tyne and Wear has the lowest rate of employment in England for people with disabilities.

One such person in this situation was James. Thanks to the Job Centre pointing him in the direction of Moving on Tyne and Wear, he now has permanent work with Tombola on the company’s animation team.

From previous low self-esteem and confidence issues, James is now excited for his future. He added: “I would encourage anyone in a similar position to go and get help. For the first time, I’m very excited about the future and where it might take me, hoping to work on bigger skills and hopefully move up the career ladder.”

Jason Sheriff, Team Leader of the Pathways project states: “there isn’t enough support in our area for adults with autism and learning difficulties, particularly when they have the ability to be community members who want to contribute socially and economically.

“We want to help people build their confidence whilst educating local employers. Businesses need to learn there are simple measures they can take to make the workplace accommodating to a variety of people.

“Our Pathways participants are enthusiastic, incredibly eager, and hard working. At the beginning of their journey with us, they’re often stuck and unable to move forward. With one-to-one support from our Health Pathways Officers and Job Coaches, their skills begin to emerge through growing confidence.

“We’re immensely proud to have nurtured coders, IT technicians, customer service workers, and so much more. Dedication from them, our team, and the existing services in Tyne and Wear is what it takes to completely transform lives.”

If you, or someone you know, has autism or a learning difficulty which is a barrier to employment, get in touch with Moving On Tyne & Wear to find out how Pathways could help them move forward. Call 0191 217 3206 or visit for more information.

 Pathways is supported by its partners North East Autism Society, Groundwork NE & Cumbria, and the Foundation of Light.

Watch James tell his story on Moving On Tyne & Wear’s YouTube channel.

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