Lord Touhig visited the head office of Sovereign housing association earlier this week – to meet Max J Green, the star of The TMI campaign to close the autism employment gap, and learn more about the apprenticeship programme that started his IT career. The visit coincides with National Apprenticeship Week and was organised after Lord Touhig heard Max speak about his experiences of employment in Parliament last year at an event we helped to organise. Max is also speaking at a follow-up roundtable event with the Minister of State for Apprenticeships during World Autism Awareness Week. 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 and Holby City as well as The National Autistic Society campaign film.
Lord Touhig, who is a Vice President of our charity, 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.”
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.”
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.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. Our research 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. We’re campaigning to close the autism employment gap.