It’s been great to see more media attention on the subject of autism and an interest in raising the awareness of this condition with programmes like the Channel 4 programme “Are you Autistic?” and the BBC Documentary “Employable Me”. Last week one of our students Hannah Khan who has an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) was interviewed by the BBC see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43912447. Hannah’s interview gave a real insight into the challenges of being autistic but also her determination to succeed and encourage others to do the same.
We currently have a number of students at the University who choose to disclose their autism and receive specific careers support as well as access to a range of other support through our Student Services. Yet we know that there are other students who choose not to disclose or have their autism confirmed as they fear discrimination and work very hard to mask their condition. Research has shown that this non-disclosure can often lead to undue anxiety and stress.
So, are students right to fear discrimination? It is certainly true that the current employment statistics are not great for those with an ASC. When looking at employment destinations for disabled graduates, those graduates with a Social/ASC have the lowest proportion in full time work (32.9%) and also the highest levels of unemployment at 17%*. But times are changing and as a Careers Adviser working with students with ASC, I have seen some really positive changes in the last few years on how some employers are viewing those on the autistic spectrum and actively seeking to recruit them.
This blogs aims to give you a taste on what’s happening out there in the graduate labour market….
At the end of January we saw the launch of a new two day employability programme organised through the University’s Centre for Applied Autism Research in Psychology and a collaboration with JP Morgan. The two days attracted 15 students with autism which included presentations by employees who have autism, talks on disclosure and interview techniques and concluded with a trip to the JP Morgan offices inBournemouth. Feedback on this new programme was excellent and JP Morgan who are leading the field with their recruitment programme for Autistic Graduates are keen to continue to seek out those students with ASC. Why would they do this? The answer lies in the research they conducted on both their neuro typical employees and those employees with ASC. This showed that employees with ASC generally had excellent analytical and numerical skills, had excellent focus on particular tasks and great attention to detail to name a few of their outcomes. However, in addition they also performed tasks quicker than many neuro-typical (non-autistic) employees. But JP Morgan are not the only ones trying to attract particular graduates.. ..
In April, the Careers Service invited Laurel Herman from ASPIeRATIONS and a panel of speakers engaged with the autism agenda to present to students and staff on campus. ASPIeRATIONS is a community interest company dedicated to “busting the myths” about autism. They are passionate about helping to destigmatise autism through opening and amplifying the conversation and building awareness. The company is also dedicated to providing innovative solutions to improve entry, inclusion, involvement, and integration for those with Asperger Syndrome and high-functioning autism into AspergerFit ‘n’ Friendly organisations. Their most recent initiative has been to launch the ASPIeRATIONS Recruitment Channel for graduates with a specially created AS-friendly system for potential candidates to apply online for graduate positions.
As a result of their work many organisations have positively engaged with ASPIeRATIONS and these include Linklaters, Withers, Norton Rose Fulbright, EY, KPMG, PwC, BP, Sony, Cabinet Office, HSBC, National Grid, BAE Systems, Lloyd's of London, Nationwide, Hyperion Insurance, JPMorgan, Royal Mail, Mercers Consulting, ICAEW, Deutsche Bank, Manpower Group, and Good Relations PR.
Employer Brand Manager , Tom Portingale from Nationwide spoke of their collaboration with ASPIeRATIONS and emphasised that graduates on the autistic spectrum were valued and the organisation welcomed the differences they had to offer.
Other organisations are also supporting students with ASC into work including MyPlus Consulting and a new Bristol organisation - The Next Steps Foundation. There are also employers now like Auticon who only recruit those on the autistic spectrum and currently employ 15 IT Consultants who work with some of the top employers.
So the future is looking brighter for graduates with ASC. Employers are recognising the strength and abilities of those on the autistic spectrum. This has little to do with sympathy for these graduates or improving diversity within the organisation. This has everything to do with recognising that graduates with ASC will often outperform some neuro typical graduates on key tasks within their organisations. Essentially, it is now making good business sense to target students who have high functioning autism!
If you have read this blog and think you might be on the autistic spectrum and would like to talk to an Adviser, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or book an appointment via Student Services Help desk on 01225 38 38 38. If you are on the autism spectrum and would like some careers support then please contact the Careers Service at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
*The National Autistic Society (2016). The autism employment gap: Too Much Information in the workplace. p5
What Happens Next 2017, A Report on the First Destinations of 2015 Disabled Graduates - AGCAS