One of the best things to come from the recent global pandemic is an increased focus on mental health and mental illnesses. It’s becoming more and more common for autistic individuals to actively share their diagnoses and have their differences celebrated and accepted. However, it’s still uncommon for autistic adults to be in work in British Columbia as they still struggle against hiring systems that are heavily weighted towards neurotypical jobseekers.
Autism Employment Stats
The numbers surrounding autistic employment in British Columbia make for worrying reading. It’s estimated that there are 60,000 individuals diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum in the province of which 50,000 are adults. It’s estimated that 80% of these individuals are either out of work or in work that doesn’t make use of their skills and talents (also known as being underemployed). This works out at 40,000 autistic individuals with skills and talents for the workplace who aren’t being utilized to their full capacity. Any company that can work out how to help autistic job seekers get into the workplace will have their pick of the best quality candidates.
Keep The Person At The Centre
However, tapping into the untapped pool of autism talent in British Columbia is easier said than done. While some bigger companies like JP Morgan Chase, SAS, and Microsoft are actively creating professional jobs for ASD adults, it can take a lot of resources to adapt the hiring and onboarding process to become truly autism-friendly. The main advice is to keep the person at the center of all decisions. There is an adage about autism that says that once you’ve met one person on the autism spectrum, you’ve met one person on the autism spectrum. In terms of employment, this means that you have to consider that individual’s needs, desires, and capabilities as you help them find work with the right company for them.
Get Professional Help
For many autistic job seekers, it can feel like the whole job-hunting process is stacked against them. Applications require a level of abstract generalization that can be hard for autistic individuals to complete, and the face-to-face interviews rely heavily on subtle social cues and an ability to read body language which tends to favor neurotypical individuals. This is why many autistic adults who look for professional jobs for ASD team up with autism talent management agencies. Some of the many benefits of getting professional help include:
- Aptitude testing – like any other employment agency, an autism talent management agency will meet with prospective applicants to find out their strengths, interests, and career goals. For many autistic individuals, this process is eye-opening as they may not have considered the wide range of employment opportunities that will fit with their condition. It also stays true to the idea of putting the individual at the very heart of the decision-making process.
- Job readiness training – the workplace is a potential minefield for autistic employees. There can be a lot of sensory stimulation, tricky social situations to navigate, and the need for self-organization and motivation. Working with an autism talent management agency gives autistic job seekers access to their job readiness training which will provide scenario-based opportunities to practice, rehearse and develop the skills needed to be successful in a neurotypical workplace.
- In work support – any autistic employment opportunity requires both the employee and the employer to make some changes to meet in the middle. While the potential employee will have worked with the autism employment agency to go through job readiness training, the agency will also work with the employer to provide training support on how to incorporate the autistic worker into their workforce. This can include company-wide training on autism awareness as well as specific guidance and on-the-job support for team members and supervisors working directly with the new employee.
Breaking the Cycle
As with any form of societal shift, it can be hard to move the needle to begin with. While the employment rate for autistic adults in British Columbia remains at 20% or less, it can be hard to create more autism-friendly workplaces. However, all it takes is a few companies to take the plunge to sign up with local autism employment agencies and start tapping into the autistic talent pool. As they start to gain a competitive edge in their market, more companies will realize the untold potential of autistic workers and the cycle of autism unemployment can be broken.