A “woeful inadequacy” of apprenticeships, internships and jobs for adults with autism is holding back their prospects and blighting society, according to experts at the Priory Group.
Following last week's World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), Allison Hope-West, autism director at the Priory Group, urged companies to come forward, saying many adults with autism could fulfil satisfying roles in the workplace but are never given the opportunity to make their ambitions a reality.
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She said a lack of understanding among employers of autistic spectrum disorder and a dearth of specialised employment services were major hurdles to gaining employment, while more training was needed for those who supported adults with autism in jobs.
“It is really useful for employers to have positive statements about the benefits that people with autism can bring to their service – such as work ethic, reliability, thoroughness, honesty and attention to detail," she added.
“Every person on the autistic spectrum is individual, and some will manage well in a workplace setting with small interventions. But employers do need a better awareness of the condition, because there's a lot they can do quite easily that would help.”
Practicalities of effective support for people with autism in employment - Deepa Korea (Research Autism)
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About 1 in 100 adults has autism – a lifelong condition which affects people’s understanding of the world and their communication with others. But with the right support, those with autism can lead rewarding lives, and many can be socially and economically independent.
Surveys have shown that the majority of the more than 300,000 working-age adults with autism in the UK want to work.
Priory’s Strathmore College in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire is geared to helping students with autism to be ready for work, but its vice principal wants more employers to come forward. Currently, the college has 34 students on the autistic spectrum, aged 16-24 as well as a café, factory unit and horticultural centre to help develop their skills.
It also has links with local employers and in 2013/4 10 students left the college to enter voluntary part-time work, and one had a paid apprenticeship. Twelve months earlier, 10 went into voluntary part-time work and one entered full-time paid work.
“We really appreciate the support we receive from the employers we work with who offer us work placements for our learners," said Jim Glover, vice principal of Priory’s Strathmore College. "However, we would urge more employers to consider how they can offer work placements that lead to paid employment.
“Simulated activities are valuable to help develop learners’ work skills, but we could be wasting valuable time when we could be training the learner on the job, with the prospect of continuing with that employer.”
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