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February 9th, 2023
Hi Peter, tell us a little about your role at Ambitious about Autism and what the organisation is working to achieve?
I am the Employer Engagement Officer for our pioneering employability programme Employ Autism, for autistic young people. I work with any employer throughout the UK, with a focus on the North West and Midlands. Essentially I am looking for employers of any size that are looking to develop young autistic people.
Ambitious about Autism is a charity that is looking to advance opportunities for young autistic people and children through employment, education and social situations. Socially, our youth participation arm allows young people to meet and have a voice. It was actually through the youth participation programme that the door was opened for the Employ Autism programme.
What is the current outlook for young people on the autistic spectrum looking for employment?
I would say the current outlook is bleak! Only 20% of autistic people are in any form of employment. As a charity, we find that wholly unacceptable and we are fighting to improve the chances of young people gaining access to employment. The statistics point to around 1 in 100 people in the UK having a positive diagnosis and in the US this is even higher, with 1 in 50 having the diagnosis. I personally see the UK stats coming more into line with the US in the not too distant future. That is a heck of a lot of people that can contribute positively to the economy given the right chances.
What do you see as the main blockers for organisations in employing people on the autistic spectrum?
From a personal point of view, I struggled all my life until I got my diagnosis at the age of 36. Now I am thriving and that is down to a couple of things. Knowledge is power, and I now understand myself very well on top of this I have found an employer that embraces me as I am and encourages me consistently. For many employers though the blockers are around a lack of understanding and knowledge. As a charity, we train and educate employers and we support them throughout the process of hiring and managing autistic people. Autistic people are all different, some might need sensory adjustments and here technology helps, such as noise-cancelling headphones. The fact that we have all had to work from home, where possible, is potentially a wonderful thing as many autistic people like their own working environments. Most importantly businesses need to get to know their people, get to understand what makes them tick or worry and make adjustments accordingly. One example might be job carving to suit the needs of the individuals.
In your opinion what skills are they missing out on?
Autistic people are often highly focused and can offer a completely different perspective, bring different ideas to the table and they are very loyal.. Now that I am with an employer who gets me, I want to give back as much as I can.
In your opinion what does a truly diverse workforce mean to you?
A workplace that is full of people from different backgrounds. A place that says no to group thinking to the benefit of the whole organisation.
To find out more about Ambitious about Autism’s Employ Autism programme visit: https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/what-we-do/employment
To find out more about Ambitious about Autism’s Training and Consultancy programme visit: https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/what-we-do/training-and-consultancy
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