[Sub ID 4326] Online employability program for young people living with autism (Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism)

Submission ID: 4326
Organisation name: Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC)

Which priority group of the Try, Test and Learn Fund does your idea support?
Young students at risk of long-term unemployment

What need or issue are you trying to address?
A staggering one in 68 individuals are on the autism spectrum (CDC, 2014). This includes approximately 27,900 Australians aged 20 & over. Autistic adults have the worst labour-force participation rates of all disability groups at just 42% (ABS). Many others are underemployed. Being unable to obtain & maintain employment results in long-term reliance on government support, lack of purpose, & dependence on family.

Many young people complete tertiary or vocational qualifications, yet do not obtain employment. Autistic individuals are generally disadvantaged by traditional employment practices, which rely heavily on a specific set of social skills, which may not be highly relevant to the actual position applied for nor identify the best candidate for a particular job. Other contributing disadvantages can include low confidence, associated mental health issues, limited previous employment or volunteer experiences, lack of support to engage in job seeking or selection processes & difficulties managing transitions & new environments.

Despite some recent small innovative pilot programs there has been very limited investment in autism-friendly programs to assist with building workforce skills & capacity to streamline transitions to skilled employment. Most autistic adults are motivated to work & make valuable contributions when given the right opportunities, support & understanding.

What is your idea?
Through the utilisation of our existing evidence-based research, the proposed project would provide a series of online tools and workplace supports to both build the capacity of students wanting to transition into meaningful, sustained employment and enhance organisational capacity that benefits from a more neurodiverse workforce.

These tools and supports would provide effective alternative ways to show competence, strengths, support needs and job suitability comparable or superior to traditional interviewing and onboarding practices. Online modules for employers and potential employees would be developed around themes such as managing anxiety, personal presentation, disclosure and workplace social norms. Online resources would also assist both transitioning employees and employers to identify and address emerging workplace issues before work situations break down.

This resource package would benefit a range of users and applications (including existing employment support programs). It would integrate the current piecemeal approach into a coherent pathway, building on existing peer-mentoring programs and creating internship opportunities. This would include assisting students to develop employment goals and build confidence, experience and skills to enable them to achieve goals and contribute to society. Identification of potential students would be supported by the Autism CRC’s existing participant network, which includes 10 universities across five states.