Clare Caccavone on supporting more autistic young people into the workplace.

Employment rates for autistic people are bleak. Only 29% of autistic people are in any form of employment, compared to 81.6% of non-disabled people. This is one of the lowest employment rates of all disabled groups. Although many autistic young people want to work, when they leave school there are still many barriers that prevent them from achieving their ambitions. A survey of over 500 autistic young people and their parents and carers conducted by the charity Ambitious about Autism found that 71% of those who are currently unemployed would like to be in work, but less than a third were confident they would be able to find work within the next year. Worryingly, over a fifth said they don’t tell potential employers that they are autistic because they are afraid of being treated unfairly, with over 70% saying they don’t disclose they are autistic due to fear of discrimination. These findings reveal just how much more needs to be done to increase employers’ understanding of autism and to stamp out unfair discrimination. 

Getting more people into work 
The Employ Autism programme works with employers, young people and careers professionals to break down barriers and improve confidence about autism and neurodiversity. As well as providing training, resources and ongoing mentorship, the programme has helped to harness the potential of hundreds of autistic young people across the country who have achieved work placements in government departments, media and communications companies, insurance firms and finance businesses.

For autistic people, employment inequality does not begin and end with access to work. Workplace culture plays a huge part in autistic people’s experience of employment and their sense of fulfilment in their roles. In a recent national employment survey we conducted, 45% of respondents said their employers’ understanding of autism was poor or very poor and 36% of respondents said they had experienced bullying or harassment at work. Statistics like this demonstrate the vital importance of awareness and understanding of the needs and differences of autistic people in the workplace. We work closely with our business partners to ensure that reasonable adjustments are put in place for autistic employees and that colleagues are informed of their needs and how best to support them. 

Every autistic person is different and has different aspirations and support needs. As a charity we run specialist schools and a college with campuses across London, supporting young people aged 4-25. Through the college, internships are available to young people with Education, Health and Care plans. These internships are for autistic people aged 16-25 who would like to gain valuable work experience, develop their employability and life skills, build confidence and expand their social networks. A recent partnership with a local hospital saw 60% of the graduate interns secure a paid job of 16 or more hours of work per week, following their placements. 

The employers share the view that autism is a difference, not a deficit, and that autistic employees can offer enormous benefits to business through different ways of thinking and problem solving.

Clare Caccavone
Author: Clare Caccavone

Clare Caccavone
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Clare Caccavone is Programme Director for the Employ Autism program mentioned in the article. She is a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion everywhere.

X: @AmbitiousAutism
Instagram: @AmbitiousaboutAutism


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