Success for Peterborough man with autism who found his first job in 2020

Leon Stephenson at his new job at Westcombe Engineering.Leon Stephenson at his new job at Westcombe Engineering.
Leon Stephenson at his new job at Westcombe Engineering.
A man from Peterborough who has autism has achieved his goal of finding his first job in 2020 after help from the DWP’s Work Coaches.

Leon Stephenson, 27, developed the skills he needed to land his first job as a machinist at Westcombe Engineering, a social enterprise owned by Peterborough Council.
He has been supported along the way by his Work Coach at the jobcentre, Denise Marks. Department for Work and Pensions Work Coaches support people, including those with a disability, to find work. They can offer practical support, such as help writing a CV and help with preparations for a job interview, as well as provide opportunities to learn new skills.

Paired with personal support from a dedicated Work Coach the department also offers specialist programmes for disabled people.

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These programmes include Access to Work, which provides grants of up to £60,000 for equipment or services to help you stay in employment and now includes support to work from home.

DWP Work Coach Denise Marks.DWP Work Coach Denise Marks.
DWP Work Coach Denise Marks.

Denise helped Leon get his first foot on the career ladder by finding out how his school had supported him to gain a clear picture of his learning needs, so she could better support him.

She then referred Leon to Peterborough College to help him to get the qualifications he needed to start work, including math and English.

Leon successfully passed an interview for a Work Trial at Westcombe Engineering’s Covid-safe environment, which led to a permanent job.

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She said: “Leon always remained determined, and longed for the day he could say, ‘right, I’m off to work’. Everyone has a different learning style and it’s important to focus on what someone can do, not what they can’t.

“When Westcombe Engineering were recruiting, I knew in a heartbeat that they’d be the perfect employer for Leon and he would get the support he needed.

“Westcombe is an experienced and supportive employer with 80% of their workforce having a health condition proving they’re an inclusive employer. I then set about helping Leon with interview practice so he could achieve his dream of having a job.”

Leon added: “I am so pleased that Westcombe Engineering have given me an opportunity to show what I can offer employers. Before coming to Westcombe Engineering I had applied for so many jobs and didn’t even get a response.

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“I love the environment; it is very supportive, very interesting and I am learning every day. I am treated as an individual and not as a person with a disability, and I look forward to coming to work every day,”

Andrew Lesiw, Managing Director of Westcombe Engineering said: “We are a world-class engineering business owned by Peterborough City Council, full of skilled and talented local employees like Leon.

“We are so very proud of the work we do with developing all of our staff and employees here who, otherwise, would not be given the same opportunity to express their talent had they not been employed here at Westcombe Engineering.

“Leon has already established himself as a key member of staff, he’s just remarkable. He uses some of our most complicated computer numerical controlled machinery.”

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Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: “As we look to 2021 with renewed optimism that embarking on the largest vaccination programme has given us, our work coaches will continue delivering exceptional personalised support to jobseekers, like Leon.

“We are doubling the number of our Work Coaches to 27,000 by March and they will play a critical role in delivering on our Plan for Jobs, driving forward our economic recovery as we build back stronger from coronavirus.”

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