New online toolkits launched to improve job prospects for autistic graduates
The free ‘Good Practices Guides’ and online toolkits are the result of a three-and-a-half-year collaboration between Leeds Beckett and four partner universities across Europe. They have all been created by working together with autistic students and graduates, employers, academics, and careers advisors - to ensure that they fully meet the needs of those who will use them.
The resources are available in five languages and can be viewed and downloaded from the IMAGE Autism website.
Approximately one per cent of the population is on the autism spectrum. Improved 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, many 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 IMAGE project (Improving Employability of Autistic Graduates in Europe) brought together researchers from the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, France, and Germany to create solutions.
Dr Marc Fabri, Reader in Participatory Design in the Leeds School of Arts at Leeds Beckett, led the project. He explained: “Through our research, we found similar problems in all of the countries involved - despite differences in culture and national employment initiatives. Some lucky graduates find the help they need, but most do not.
“All of our resources focus on the positive things that autistic graduates can bring to a job role – and the positive steps that they can implement. They all promote a strengths-based view of autism.”
The resources consist of:
- Good practice guides for professionals: Four guides are available for careers advisors, university lecturers, higher education managers, and employers;
- A full training programme and materials for university and other careers advisors – including hands-on exercises and tips;
- An online employability toolkit for students and graduates, packed with resources for improving their employability and developing self-advocacy skills.
Dr Fabri said: “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.
“Our aim is to make finding good jobs for autistic graduates less a matter of pure luck than the result of smart planning and inclusive action. We hope that the long-term impact of the project will be greater autism awareness amongst employers, better support at universities, and ultimately more autistic graduates in employment.”
The IMAGE project received £400,000 of funding from the EU Erasmus+ programme. It is a partnership of five European universities: Leeds Beckett University, University of Helsinki, Free University Amsterdam, Medical School Berlin and the University of Toulouse.
For more information, and to download the free resources, please visit the IMAGE Autism website.