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Workplace and University diversity is enriching for all involved

In support of #WorldAutismAwarenessWeek there is no better time to raise awareness of the 3 year IMAGE project, funded through Erasmus+ KA2, and led by Leeds Beckett University, which is being conducted in five European countries: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland, France and Germany.

Workplace and University diversity is enriching for all involved

IMAGE

The acronym IMAGE stands for Improving EMployability of Autistic Graduates in Europe.

“It is about supporting autistic university students to appreciate and demonstrate their strengths to employers. Our work moves away from a deficit model of autism and instead focuses on skills development, self-advocacy and the sharing good support practice amongst universities and employers” Dr Marc Fabri at m.fabri@leedsbeckett.ac.uk, IMAGE’s Primary researcher at Leeds Beckett, explains.

The project team, which consists of autistic and non-autistic researchers, collaborates with students, careers advisors and prospective employers using mixed methods. The study includes stakeholder interviews, participatory design workshops and a multi-stakeholder survey.

Why focus on autistic graduates?

  • Steadily rising numbers in higher education
  • Highly qualified graduates with dedication for their subject
  • BUT: extremely low employment rates after graduation
  • Poor support at university (employability skills and careers advice)
  • Poor performance during recruitment process
  • Lack of support when starting a new job
  • Challenges due to sensory, social & communication difficulties

As autistic young people increasingly receive the right support at school and university, the number of autistic graduates is growing at an unprecedented rate. These individuals are academically competent but unfortunately very few enter graduate employment. European HE systems currently fail this student group, and autistic graduates enter a fast-growing pool of untapped economic potential, preventing personal fulfilment and creating long-term costs to society.

The aim of the project

The IMAGE project will produce an employability toolkit that autistic students can use independently, training materials for careers advisors to develop their skills and professional practice, and a set of good practice guides for professionals and employers to raise awareness of autism and become more autism-friendly. It is very likely that project outputs will benefit other disadvantaged student groups too, including students with other disabilities.

Get Involved

You can get involved in the project via the project surveys and on Twitter: @imageautism.

All outputs will be tested and evaluated during the project, and made freely available to the HE community and employers at the end of the project. The long-term impact will be greater autism awareness amongst professionals, more inclusive HE institutions and procedures, better skilled autistic graduates, and ultimately more autistic graduates in employment.

Get in touch

If you would like to find out more about the IMAGE project get in touch with Marc Fabri, 0113 81 23317, M.Fabri@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.

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About the Author

IMAGE

The IMAGE project is an Erasmus+ funded strategic partnership of 5 Higher Education Institutions from 5 European countries.

It is about supporting autistic university students to appreciate and demonstrate their strengths to employers.

The acronym IMAGE stands for Improving EMployability of Autistic Graduates in Europe.

Our work moves away from a deficit model of autism and instead focuses on skills development, self-advocacy and the sharing good support practice amongst universities and employers.