IOD Director of the Year Awards

A celebration of leadership talent, success and achievement

Bill Atkinson profile



Chief Executive
Ulster Supported Employment and Learning (Usel)

Bill Atkinson was appointed as CEO of Usel in 2015 to drive Strategic Leadership, Innovation and a Circular Economy, under a social enterprise model.  Usel, under Bill’s leadership, is Northern Ireland’s largest provider of supported employment for people with disabilities or health related conditions.  Its strategic vision is to “Champion Ability”, helping people living with disabilities and health related conditions find and sustain employment. Its manufacturing operation, based on Cambrai Street, produces a wide range of products, including mattresses, hand stitched vintage leather satchels and bespoke bags for clients such as UK emergency services.



Usel was established in 1962 to provide supported paid employment for people within its Belfast manufacturing base. In 1980 Usel merged with Workshops for the Blind to become the largest supporter of people with disabilities and health-related conditions into open employment in Northern Ireland. Each year they employ, support, and train up to 1500 people with disabilities or health-related conditions across the province.


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