Inaugural graduation event sees 34 neurodiverse participants graduate from NOW Group Training Academies

The social enterprise behind the well-regarded JAM Card* – the NOW Group – has just held its inaugural Graduation event at Dublin City Hall, with 34 neurodiverse and autistic participants from across Dublin graduating from NOW Group Training Academies.

Just one year on from the NOW Group’s launch in Ireland, the participants graduated in core industries including digital and catering, each of which equipped participants with tangible skills, experience and qualifications.

Josh Byrne from Irishtown was crowned as Participant of the Year at the event, following an incredible journey, which saw Josh leave school with no clear path, to participating in the NOW Group catering academy, and now, a valued member of the team at the Patriot’s Inn, Kilmainham.

Focused on creating sustainable jobs for the future for people with intellectual disabilities, autism and neurodiverse conditions, last year the NOW Group announced the expansion of services in Ireland, which included new jobs, employment academies and expanding the footprint of the Loaf Catering brand, initially through the first Loaf Café in Kilmainham.

Ironically, the NOW Group launch coincided with the news that Ireland was named the worst country in Europe for people with disabilities in employment (32.5%) by the European Disability Forum, well below the European average of 51%.

It’s clear that more services are required to close this gap, and for the NOW Group, academies for people with neurodiverse conditions are the first step in helping to deliver opportunities for all within the workplace.

“We are so proud of our participants for their commitment and enthusiasm and are confident that this is just the first cohort of many who will graduate from our academies in the years to come,” comments Maeve Monaghan, NOW Group CEO. 

Maeve continues: “We are committed to delivering the full remit of NOW Group services for people with intellectual disabilities across Ireland, and in just one year, our team has demonstrated the impact that the NOW Group delivers, but there’s so much more to do.”

John Gordon, Chair, NOW Group adds: “The impact that the NOW Group is delivering in Northern Ireland is significant. In 2023-24, this amounted to support for 1800 participants, and 257 jobs secured. This is our vision for Ireland. We will build our services and deliver jobs with purpose for those with learning disabilities and autism.

 “After just one year, I’m delighted to hear that many of our graduates already have roles secured, including Josh, our Participant of the Year, who’s now employed in catering.

 “Neurodiverse individuals bring a unique set of strengths and perspectives to the table, and our vision is ambitious – we hope that NOW Group Academies will deliver skills for over 1,000 participants in Ireland in the next four years, and are determined to build strong partnerships with forward-thinking businesses that embrace all abilities.”

 With skills shortages regularly in the news, it’s clear that there are significant employment needs. For enlightened businesses willing to create inclusive environments, there’s a wealth of people who want to work and can add tremendous value to workplaces.

To support its ambitions, the NOW Group has just opened its first office in Dublin, with a team of six including Regional Manager, Jessica Conlon.

Reflecting on the inaugural Graduation event, NOW Group Board Member and Partner (Corporate & MA) at A&L Goodbody, Keavy Ryan, concludes: “This is a very proud day for us all, and the culmination of years of preparation in bringing the NOW Group’s invaluable services to Ireland.

“Through the JAM card, the NOW Group has already established relationships with some of Ireland’s leading businesses and organisations, and the team’s focus is to build on the success of the training academies and convert these into jobs with a future, to the benefit of both business and society.”

In addition to the main awards, Siobhan Cafferty was named as the NOW Group Champion and The National Transport Authority was named as JAM Card Partner of the Year.

For further information on the NOW Group and its services, visit or see

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