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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.

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.

Jay Dixon

Employment Specialist

Orignially I'm from Hull, but I moved to Brighton for university and stayed for a few years after. Following a short stint in Gibraltar, I moved to Sheffield, then back to Hull to bring up my children around wider family. I moved to South Shields once they were packed off to uni but now that they’re back home, we’re all planning to move into Newcastle.

I started working for YESNE in May 2023, as I kept noticing North East Autism Society recruitment adverts on social media so took a look at the website. The employment specialist role seemed to reflect elements of jobs I’d done in the past and really enjoyed. Although I really wanted my interview to be successful, I came away really happy that such a valuable service existed and that neurodiverse people were getting this vital support.

In the short time I have been delivering the YESNE course, I have already seen friendships starting to form and the participants growing in confidence. Sone have even taken steps towards their work goals - it's an absolute joy to see.

John Facchini

Employer Engagement Officer

I've worked in the employability sector since leaving school in 2001 and joined the North East Autism Society's Employment Futures team in 2017.

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing an employer and participant matched up. Helping someone to get a job doesn’t just change their lives for the better, but their entire family!

Carl Anderson

Employment Specialist

I have been in post since October 2022, initially joining via a Recruitment Agency before being offered full-time employment with North East Autism Society in January 2023.

My career has mainly focused on health and fitness, having owned my own gym in Northampton for five years before moving back up to the north east. I then spent the next 15 years in a number of roles within Sport development and, in particular, disability sport. This ran alongside working as a fitness instructor tutor before completing my PGCE in 2018 which enabled me to teach within both schools and colleges, the majority of which was within several special needs Schools across Northumberland and Durham.

The best part about the job is being able to make a difference to the lives of individuals that we work with and to see how their confidence grows each week as they use the tools we provide to adopt a positive mindset that lets them mould their own career pathways.

Sophie Maddison

Employment Specialist

I graduated from Sunderland University in 2021 with a Psychology degree, gaining my first postgraduate job at NEAS. 

My favourite thing about working on the YESNE programme is getting to know each participant and helping them to achieve their goals and gain confidence in their own ability. 

The support I offer to each of my participants is tailored towards their specific needs and the aim is always to help them have the best experience they possibly can.