Nathaniel Hawley is a television production graduate turned social entrepreneur who is helping people with learning difficulties overcome barriers to employment.
Having been diagnosed as neurodivergent, Nathaniel has been inspired by his own personal journey to increase opportunities for others.
He said: “I never thought I would get to university. I was in the bottom set throughout my time at school and teachers didn’t think I would get my GCSEs. I was determined to get to sixth form college and put in lots of extra work to pass the exams I needed to get there. I began to study video production and realised that I had a skill in visual storytelling and film making. Like many people with dyslexia and dyspraxia, I was bright but needed to learn in a different way. I knew that I wanted to further my studies but my first application to BU was unsuccessful. Undeterred I spent a year building a portfolio of work through an art foundation course before reapplying the following year and securing a place.”
During his time at Bournemouth, Nathaniel received additional help from various sources. “The support I received when studying at BU was completely invaluable for me. I met with the Additional Learning Support team on a weekly basis and apart from checking in on me generally, they would help me with my general studies, including checking my work for spelling and grammar errors. They also set me up with equipment so I could get my Disability Support Grant.
“In conjunction with this, I was also given specialised learning support within the Faculty of Media & Communication itself. I ended up with two different sets of support which really complemented one another. One was an expert on the subject – which I was struggling with – and the other was an expert in the English language. Without this help, I probably wouldn’t have passed."
Nathaniel also developed his passion for helping others by working as a Student Ambassador and by joining an outreach programme in local schools. He said: “I developed the idea for my social action project while I was at university and the idea gained momentum after graduating. I always had a sense that I would use my career to help others and it made sense to draw on my own experiences. I was lucky enough to receive some funding to enable me to develop the idea as a social enterprise.”
As Director of the Dyslexia Employment Academy, Nathaniel delivers workshops which enable gifted people with dyslexia to get the jobs they want. The academy programme is now part of Exceptional Individuals, the first employment partnership for neurodivergent people. The partnership’s work has two strands – support to help neurodivergent individuals secure employment, and training and consultancy for businesses wanting to improve their recruitment practices. Nathaniel said: “One strand supports the other, so the business model has become sustainable. People with dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism and ADHD are often highly intelligent but can slip up when it comes to performing in typical interview scenarios. We want to help businesses and individuals find the right fit in terms of employment. For businesses it shouldn’t just be about employing someone on the autistic spectrum because it feels like the right thing to do, it should be about identifying those roles where neurodivergent people can thrive and add real value.”
Nathaniel is also the Co-Founder of Divergent Thinking, whose mission it is to provide cognitive tools that empower people to explore their imagination and embrace their own unique ways of thinking.