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Meet the team

At YESNE, we are passionate about effecting real change in the lives of neurodivergent young people who may be struggling to enter the world of work. Whether you’re an individual seeking support, or an employer looking to improve your organisation’s inclusivity, our experienced team are here to help.

Derek Groves

Employment Services Manager

I’ve been the service manager for Employment Futures ever since the department launched in 2016, having previously worked in retail and IT services in Australia before moving to the UK.

I am really passionate about the talented neurodiverse people out there who want to discover their perfect job. And in the five years since Employment Futures started, we’ve helped more than 800 people take their first steps towards employment. 

The most rewarding part of my job is when someone who has been overlooked, or struggled to find and sustain work, finds that perfect match with a role that fits their skills and an employer who supports and appreciates them.

It really is a career highlight for me every time someone secures a job - especially when it’s their first job.

Mary Murton

Employment Specialist


After completing my PGCE, I entered mainstream education as a Teacher in 2014. I taught in schools across the North East for three years before moving to the Middle East in 2017. I spent time as a virtual teacher delivering lessons to students in China and led study tours across the UK, before working in a local Pupil Referral Unit delivering 1:1 tuition to disengaged students. 

At the start of 2020 I joined the North East Autism Society and I discovered that many of theskills I developed while teaching transferred well to this environment. Over the past year I’ve undertaken courses in Counselling and have steadily developed a deeper understanding of the importance of mental health and wellbeing.

The best part of my job is the importance of kindness, compassion and social conscience – and the moments that stand out the most are when I see a person transform in their confidence and esteem.

I have a passion for working with young people and firmly believe that everyone has a story to tell and something to bring to the table. It’s about working together to unlock that potential and having adventures along the way!

Philip Nicholson

Employment Specialist


Much of my career has been spent in the field of teaching and learning, and I was lucky enough to be able to travel to a number of countries to teach English as a foreign language. I also previously worked in a Further Education college in the UK and undertook voluntary work supporting asylum seekers and working with children with disabilities and learning difficulties.

Five years ago I joined the North East Autism Society and worked for a number of years supporting autistic children, young people and adults in education and day service settings, before making the leap to the Employment Futures department in 2021. The YESNE programme gives me the perfect opportunity to use my experiences of teaching, volunteering and supporting individuals with additional needs, to help our participants to excel and hopefully secure meaningful employment.

Jacqueline Pigford

Employer Engagement Officer


I studied Occupational Therapy at University, before working as a Corporate and Events Fundraiser for a small charity.  I then joined the North East Autism Society’s Employment Futures department almost three years ago.

In that time I have worked with hundreds of local employers, promoting the power and potential of a neurodiverse workforce, as well as helping participants to secure meaningful work placements and employment.

I wanted to be part of the YESNE project because it presented me with the opportunity to work with a new age group of participants – and I was ready for a new challenge!

The most rewarding part of my role is when people come back to me and say they are proud of what they have achieved, whether that’s an individual participant or employers who have engaged with the work we do.