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Free online course is breaking employment barriers for autistic job seekers

Published: 23 June 2022

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A free online course developed by and for autistic people is set to open more doors to the world of work. 

The transition from graduation to employment can be a challenging process. For autistic people there are often additional hurdles when seeking and securing work, with only 16% of autistic adults in full-time employment. 

Led by Dr Jonathan Vincent, Programme Lead for the Doctor of Education at York St John University and autism researcher, the PRO Autism project brings together a voluntary group of autistic and non-autistic members with a commitment to improving employment outcomes for autistic people. The current project, funded by the Churchill Fellowship: Covid-19 Action Fund, addresses the gap in support for autistic students and graduates as they seek employment.  

The team have now launched The PRO Autism Employability Course, a free online resource accessible to anyone, anywhere. It aims to equip autistic people with additional skills and career confidence. Significantly, the development of the course was driven by the experiences and expertise of autistic people.  

Dr Jonathan Vincent said: “Working with the autistic community to identify the needs and solutions is at the heart of the project. All the materials were developed by our group, which included autistic job coaches, university careers consultants, and autism researchers. 

“The course prompts autistic job seekers to consider how they wish to present autism to their employer and helps them identify their strengths and areas of need in the workplace. Finding the right adjustments to support them build confidence when preparing for interviews and navigate recruitment processes. 

“This free course comes at a crucial time, as the Covid crisis exacerbated difficulties for all graduates transitioning from education into the world of work but particularly for autistic graduates who often experience additional barriers.” 

The course covers 5 main areas:  

  • Knowing yourself and your autism 
  • Planning your career path 
  • Sharing your autism with others 
  • Asking for reasonable adjustments 
  • Preparing for interviews.  

Each section contains short instructive videos with additional worksheets and resources and takes up to 5 hours to complete although learners can choose a pace that suits them. 

Carl Cameron is the Training and Peer Mentoring Lead at Matthew’s Hub a support service for autistic people in Hull. Carl who is autistic himself and was involved in developing the programme said: 

“When producing any material aimed at the support of autistic people, it is vital to be led by those with a lived experience of it. Co-production between those within and outside of the autistic community brings knowledge and understanding together into the same space - it's empowering, valid, and real. Co-produced material is better trusted in general by the autistic community, and demonstrates a level of empathy which might be otherwise absent. 

“For autistic people to see and use material which has been produced by someone who has had a similar set of experiences and challenges as they have is priceless.”  

So far 681 people worldwide have enrolled on the free online course via online platform Udemy.

Feedback from those who have already completed the course is very positive. One participant said: “As an autistic person working in enterprise, I found the course amazing, clear, accessible and just brilliant. I’ve shared it with colleagues to encourage them to access it. The course set me up so positively for the week and more generally viewing the ‘sector’ as a whole.”  

PRO Autism also seeks to extend people’s sense of community, using LinkedIn as a network through which people who have undertaken the course can connect, share tips and job opportunities. And, whilst the course is primarily aimed at graduates it would be valuable for any autistic person looking for work.  

Alongside Dr Jonathan Vincent, the PRO Autism team includes Brett Heasman, Senior Lecturer at York St John University; Helen Attwood, Autistic graduate and job coach; Carl Cameron, Training and Peer Mentoring Lead at Matthew’s Hub, Hull; Keren Coney, Careers Consultant, Liverpool John Moore; Edmund Lewis, Careers Consultant at the London School of Economics and Political Science and chair of the and Disability Taskforce for the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services. 

Access the Pro Autism Employability Course and find out more.

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