211 participants graduate after two year wait
Today, 29th March 2022, the NOW Group celebrates the graduation of over 200 young adult participants from its range of bespoke academies, at a ceremony held on Tuesday 29th March at the City Hall, Belfast.
The graduation, hosted by radio presenter, Cate Conway, was attended by Alderman Tom Haire, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, NOW Group staff and participants family members who travelled from across Northern Ireland to attend the special day.
Graduating from a range of 12 bespoke academies, including warehousing, digital, retail, tourism, cleaning, business admin and employability, the 211 graduating participants have waited eagerly for their graduation day, for almost two years, following the postponement of the 2020 event due to the pandemic.
Danielle Scott and Matthew Gray, both from Belfast, are just two of the NOW Group participants to have graduated today. Completing the NOW Group skills academy courses in Catering & Hospitality, Progress to Employment and Essential Skills, Danielle now has a position with Loaf Café on Belfast’s Grosvenor Road.
“I was interested in a career in catering but lacked the confidence, belief and knowledge on how to get into the sector. Through the NOW Group training and Loaf Academy, I have secured a NVQ level 1 catering qualification as well as completing Progress to Employment and Essential Skills. I am delighted to be graduating today with the many friends that I have made whilst training and I’m so pleased to now be working in Loaf Café,” adds Danielle.
Matthew Gray also graduated in Progress to Employment, Essential Skills, Retail Business and Money Management. Matthew is now hoping to secure employment in a Belfast store.
Commenting on the first NOW Group gradation event since 2019, Chief Executive of the NOW Group, Maeve Monaghan comments: “This is a day that has been much anticipated for over 200 families, and a heartfelt congratulations and well done to all of our graduates.
“While the skills shortage and need for greater inclusion is a daily topic of conversation amongst employers, people with learning difficulties, disabilities and autism are rarely mentioned as part of the solution. We want to play our part in changing that and bringing more diverse skills into the workplace. The NOW Group academies demonstrates the wider commitment to support our participants and to provide them with real skills and qualifications to help them into the world of work.
“We want to build a build a community that recognises and rewards future innovators and leaders who can drive growth and transformation within their chosen field.”
The NOW Group is a social enterprise that works to help people with learning difficulties, disabilities and autism gain qualifications and essential life and work skills and supports them to move into jobs with a future. Providing a range of services, the work is about social inclusion and leads to the people they work with having better health, a better education and a brighter future.
John Gordon, Chair of the NOW Group said: “Today is a special day as we finally get to celebrate a remarkable milestone with our participants. The past two years have been challenging and especially so for many of our participants who have struggled with the impact of the pandemic, and who have been disadvantaged with the prolonged changes, so it is great to see them come together today and be rewarded for their hard work and achievement.
“At NOW, we have seen significant growth over the past number of years as we continue to develop our services to assist those with autism and learning difficulties find employment and opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them. I wish all our participants graduating today the very best as they take the next step on their employment journey.”
In the past year, the NOW Group has supported over 1,540 participants through its initiatives. Along with the 12 bespoke academies they also offer soft skills programmes and in the past year have run over 1,000 courses. Over 50% of the participants have gone on to gain paid employment as a result of the training and are employed across the sectors and with a variety of companies ranging from Leaf IT, Danske Bank, Galgorm Collection and Loaf Catering.
Established in 2000, the NOW Group is a social enterprise focused on supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future. For more information visit: nowgroup.org.