World Autism Awareness Week takes place between the 1st and 7th of April this year, and in support of this cause Centre For Apprenticeships spoke to former apprentice, and co-lead of the Neurodiversity Network for BT, Edward Mitchell.

BT, one of the UK’s largest internet service providers founded in 1969, offer a breadth of apprenticeships. From customer experience to cyber security, they have a lot of career paths that you can follow from their apprenticeship schemes.

These courses are designed to train you in professionality and work skills, but as apprenticeships are intense through working full time and learning, they can often be overwhelming, even more so for someone who experiences the world differently through their neurodiversity.

Edward, aged 23 from Chelmsford, told us that throughout his apprenticeship he was struggling with his neurodiversity. “I was struggling with being in the workplace, being managed around my neurodiversity. I felt like there was a solution for everyone being applied to someone who is not like everyone else” he shared with me.

“I needed a specific solution and that wasn’t being provided to me. So, I reached out to the neurodiversity network to sort of gain a bit of comradery and learn from people with more experience than me how best to deal with these sorts of things” he continued.

As someone who started working in BT as an agency worker, Edward saw his chance of developing his skills and career by starting an apprenticeship. During this time, he excelled in his role and sought support from the neurodiversity network (NDN) within BT, and upon completion of his apprenticeship applied for the co-lead role for the NDN.

“They were a really great bunch of people and how I think I sort of ended up becoming the co-lead is they really liked my energy and creativity. I’ve got the enthusiasm to really be able to be a face of the network which is something that you have to be able to do.”

 

His aim as a co-lead for this network is to be able to provide help for others who are in his situation, for people who don’t know what they can do or who to turn to, his aspiration within his new role is to become the reliable face that people can be directed to for support around neurodiversity.

Edward has big plans for the NDN, including being a part of the BT diversity and inclusion group quarterly meetings. “Myself and the other co-lead are actually going to go to one of these meetings and do a presentation. They’re a department that runs a lot of BT’s apprenticeship schemes, they’re massively into apprenticeship schemes, getting new, fresh talent into the business, and so being able to just provide for general people with neurodiversity will also help those apprentices,” and that’s just the start of what he has in store for them.

At the end of our conversation, Edward said “My biggest piece of advice is if you’re not sure, ask. It’s very, very difficult for some people, especially if you’re new to a business or new to the working world, it can be really difficult to know what the boundaries are and know ‘can I ask this, can I ask someone about X, Y, Z’, in my experience it’s always better to ask.”

“There’s a famous quote from Michael Jordan ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’, and that’s a phrase I think of a lot. If you’re going to become an apprentice, I would always keep that in mind, that if I don’t try and take this opportunity, I’m going to miss it, but if I try, even if I do miss it, I did everything that I could.”

It is amazing to see that a company that is as well developed and well known as BT is starting to make changes within its management and workforce to be more inclusive of its employees and apprentices, they’re a rewarding course for any learner, allowing them to make strides in their career path, offering unique talents to any business.