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Mad about machines that’s 22 year old Isla, a self-confessed geeky person, who is celebrating the launch of her own graphic design and garment print venture. She hopes her new business will inspire the dreams of other young people with a learning disability.

Isla from Colne in Lancashire had been out of work for four months after she lost her job with a printing company due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions. Assessed as being autistic when she was at school, Isla was concerned about finding future employment that would fully utilise her design and artistic skills.

She was referred by Sarah Oldham, at Nelson Jobcentre Plus, to Ingeus’ Work and Health Programme, known locally as Work and Health North West, which helps those who have been unemployed for a long time, as well as people with disabilities and health conditions, into work.

“I truly feel that we all have our own way and pace of learning and we need to be seen as individuals,” said Isla. “I have always been creative and the guidance and practical help I have received from Ingeus has been fantastic.&

Ingeus response key worker Sonya Colley, with Work and Health North West, encouraged Isla to think about starting her own business after reviewing her work experience and listening to Isla’s hopes for the future. Sonya produced a development plan with Isa that enabled her to understand the different stages involved in launching a new venture, now called Work Wear Press.

Isla quickly identified key customer markets, worked out production costs and the required promotional activity. Sonya also arranged for Isla to receive further business development tuition from The Prince’s Trust, a national charity that helps young people and communities.

My key worker Sonya has been so fantastic, she has provided practical advice and improved my self-confidence; she believed in me,” explained Isla. “I have had to overcome some personal challenges in my life but as I have grown up, I’m much better at communicating with people. I no longer feel overwhelmed by contributory factors such as a person’s facial expressions or bold colours in the surroundings.

“I happily admit to being a geeky person with a passion for machines. I love to go into factories and find out how they work. Now I am developing my own business, I have received a number of orders and I want to show other young people what can be achieved.

Work and Health North West, delivered by employment specialist Ingeus, is commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and receives support from the European Social Fund.

Isla’s success story has been submitted into the 2021 Neurodiversity Awards Neurodiversity Awards as a candidate in the Neurominority Achiever of the Year category.

in partnership with Department for Work & Pensions