IMAGE Project addresses poor employment prospects of autistic university students across Europe
Improved autism awareness means that more autistic people than ever are doing well in school, moving on to university, and entering the job market with university-level qualifications.
Unfortunately, most are not finding jobs. In the UK and Europe, between 84% and 90% of autistic adults are not in full-time employment. Others are working well below their ability level in lower-paid roles.
The Improving Employability of Autistic Graduates in Europe (IMAGE) Project (www.imageautism.com) has brought together researchers from the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, France and Germany to create solutions.
Dr Marc Fabri, from Leeds School of Arts, explains how the project works: “We found similar problems in all of the countries involved in the project, despite differences in culture and national employment initiatives. Some lucky graduates find the help they need, but most do not.
“Now, working together with autistic students and graduates, employers, academics and careers advisors, the IMAGE Project team is developing free ‘Good Practices Guides’ that will be available in summer 2021 in five languages. There will be guides for academics who work with students, careers advisors and employers. IMAGE will also produce an online toolkit for students and graduates, packed with resources for improving their employability and developing self-advocacy skills.
“Autistic students and graduates need an individual approach. Many people are in a position to help and it’s important to consider where and how employability support can be provided - making adjustments for sensory issues is one example, providing clear and unambiguous information is another. Academics can help autistic students get internships and other work experience and help them get the most out of it.
“Careers advisors are often not sure how to advise autistic people about sharing their diagnosis and may not know about employment laws and practices around disability. Employers also need to make sure their recruitment and employment practices do not disadvantage qualified candidates and prevent disability discrimination. The ‘Good Practice Guides’ suggest helpful practices and link readers with extra resources.
“The IMAGE Project team found that careers advisors had limited training on (neuro)diversity and helpful strategies, so a training programme for university and other careers advisors is also being developed. The training package will be released at a conference in Amsterdam later this year.
“The IMAGE Project wants to make finding good jobs for university graduates with autism less a matter of pure luck than the result of smart planning and inclusive action.”
During Autism Awareness Week 2021, the IMAGE team will release daily previews of the guides, the student toolkit and the training materials on Twitter @imageautism and at www.imageautism.com. These resources have only just been created and have never been shared before.
The IMAGE Project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and led by Leeds Beckett University. The project website is www.imageautism.com.