From education to employment

The surprising number of older jobseekers with undiagnosed dyslexia

Matt Boyd, Founder of Exceptional Individuals

Exceptional Individuals: The UK’s First Dyslexic Employment Partnership 

Dyslexic people are uniquely placed to fill the skills gap that plagues the UK’s workforce. They excel at reasoning, connecting, exploring, communicating, imagining and visualising. So why then are 4 out of 10 people using the Jobcentre Plus dyslexic?

Four years ago, having achieved a first-class degree from a top university I was one of those that found myself in the job centre after months of applying for jobs with no success. I had the skills, experience and education to succeed but my dyslexia meant I was being screened out of complex recruitment processes.

A conservative estimate is that one in ten people in the UK have dyslexia, around 6.5million people. Yet studies suggest 4 in 10 unemployed people using Jobcentre Plus are dyslexic, this is over 1 million dyslexic unemployed people in the UK.

I knew there must be other people like me, who needed bespoke support to ensure they could access and excel in the job market which motivated me to start Exceptional Individuals (EI) and give people support where there wasn’t any for myself.

With the support of the DWP New Enterprise allowance scheme I started Exceptional Individuals, the UK’s first Dyslexic Employment Partnership.

Since launching, Exceptional Individuals have supported thousands of beneficiaries achieve their potential and have helped both high profile and smaller employers ensure they get access to this unique talent pool.

Exceptional Individuals work with candidates across every sector, and from all walks of life (from Artists to Boardroom Executives to Sales Assistants) as well as numerous companies from across the UK.

Candidates are taken through a five-step employment pathway – free at the point of use – with support continuing when candidates are in the workplace.

In 2018 Exceptional Individuals will support 318 people into work, deliver 927 one-to-one sessions, support 1722 candidates over the phone and support 264 candidates through events and workshops.

EI also support companies and their staff throughout the employment process – with one-to-one drop-in sessions for Managers, company inclusivity audits, handy guides for colleagues, and training or support for Dyslexic staff already on pay-roll.

Through this work we have developed a portfolio of fantastic diverse candidates and a range of big and small employers with a wide variety of vacancies so an obvious next step was to match the two. This and requests from the community led EI to develop the UK’s first Dyslexia Employment Academy.

The Dyslexia Employment Academy launched this October 2018, to a packed room of DWP, cabinet office and employment professionals as well as on the 6 o’clock news.

The team at Exceptional Individuals, including myself are all neurodivergent and we have learnt how to harness this and make it our USP. We know how to sell ourselves to employers and have interview techniques and coping strategies.

We used this lived experience to develop a series of fantastic workshops designed to give candidates the bespoke support they need and ultimately get jobs for dyslexics.

Over the course of a year the workshops were piloted to candidates and disability employment advisors and we received fantastic feedback. 94% of attendees felt more confident, 100% improved their understanding of neurodiversity and 90% would recommend the workshops to a friend or colleague.

The workshops have been developed into a 6-week programme in which participants will gain the skills and tools they need in order to get into work, will have improved confidence and motivation for their job search and will have a really thorough understanding of their dyslexia and how it can be something they are proud of and can be used as an asset.

Participants will also become part of the Exceptional Individuals community. They will be supported through a number of one-to-one sessions after the 6 weeks and will have access to vacancies from Exceptional Individuals inclusive partner employers in order to get jobs for dyslexics.  

In partnership with the Jobcentre and other partners we hope to deliver the first full 6-week Dyslexia Employment Academy in late 2018 and start to flood the job market with Exceptional Individuals who think a little differently.

Matt Boyd, Founder of Exceptional Individuals

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