Young people with autism are nearly twice as likely to be classified as not in education, employment or training (NEET) compared with other young people, and without urgent action to improve opportunities, we risk “writing off a generation” of young people with autism, a charity has warned.
A survey by Ambitious about Autism, released to coincide with the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day 2014 (April 2) found that more than a quarter (27%) of young people said they were currently not in education, employment or training, compared with 14% of the general population.
Only 1 in 4 felt they had the support needed to get a job and just 10% thought employers were likely to recruit an employee with autism. Most young people (77%) identified that increasing employers’ awareness of autism would make the biggest difference in enabling them to get a job, as well as the need for schools and colleges to actively help them develop the necessary skills to gain employment.
Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: “We know that fewer than 1 in 4 young people with autism go on to any kind of education after school, compared with 86% of the general population. The fact that young people with autism are twice as likely to be classed as NEET means urgent action is needed to increase access to further education and to support employers to open up the world of work for young people with autism.
“With 1 in 100 children having autism, if we don’t take action, we risk writing off a generation before they even reach adulthood. If this were happening to any other group of young people there would rightly be a national outcry.”
To try and combat this problem, Ambitious About Autism has announced two new initiatives. In September the charity will open Ambitious College, London’s first co-located further education college for young people with autism, which will be located at Barnet and Southgate College.
Later this year, the charity will join forces with a range of employers to host an autism employment summit bringing together young people with autism and business leaders to develop a blueprint to support employers to open up work opportunities for young people with autism.
Youth patron of Ambitious about Autism, David Nicholson, said: “As a job-seeker with Asperger’s syndrome, hunting for and applying for jobs can be very challenging. I’ve been to a variety of job interviews and my confidence can drop when I get a job rejection.
“It is therefore vital that employers are made aware that people like me on the autism spectrum can make great employees because we can work hard, are dedicated and want to do our very best. We also have talent and potential and employers should recognise this sooner rather than later.”