As a part of their disability employment initiative, the Federal Government has introduced two new training projects to support people living with autism in employment.
Three organisations, Doughnut bakery and social enterprise Krofne, Whitmur Advisors and GenU Training, have collectively received $200,000 in Government funding to work together to develop two accredited training courses for the hospitality industry.
The initiatives have been well received by Nicole Rogerson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Autism Awareness Australia, who says that despite improvements over the years barriers remain for people living with autism when seeking employment.
"Whilst there have been changes and improvements over the years, there are still way too many people with autism unemployed or underemployed.
"Finding companies willing to hire people with disabilities is hard at the best of times, but often people with autism may need minor adjustments and accommodations made for them to be successful at work. Too many companies are either not aware or unwilling to do that.
"People with autism are like anyone else. They want to be included and supported in society, and that includes employment for those who can and want to work."
The programs will be piloted in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, with the aim to expand to other locations and industries.
Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston says that the expertise of the organisations working together will offer insight and help develop the program.
"With more than 50 percent of its workforce people with intellectual disabilities, Krofne Bakery is a Canberra leader in disability employment."
"Danijela Vrkic started the business in 2016 so her son Anthony, who has Down syndrome, could have a meaningful job that he loves.
"Ms Vrkic's experience will help equip the program that will offer training for businesses to help employees with autism to navigate workplace expectations with a real-world understanding of the rewards and fundamentals of employing people with disability."
Ms Rogerson welcomes the focus on the hospitality industry as it allows for more employment opportunities.
"Autism in the workplace has been a popular theme and conversation for the last couple of years, however those opportunities and programs often only catered to a very specific set of people on the spectrum - usually those with high IT skills.
"I applaud these program's focus on hospitality and other job opportunities which will help in the recruitment of people on the spectrum who don't fit that 'Big Bang [Theory]' stereotype."
Employers will also receive support to help them become autism confident with the assistance Specialisterne, a company that assists organisations in recruiting and supporting people with autism, receiving $300,000 in funding.
Specialisterne will train and support eight businesses and two recruitment agencies to become autism-confident in Brisbane and Melbourne.
They will also offer coaching and support to those businesses for up to 20 new employees with autism.
Minister Ruston says, "With international expertise in changing employer mindsets about the employability of people with autism, Specialisterne will provide in-house support and training tailored to the needs of each employer and the talents of employees with autism.
Ms Rogerson says that training for employers is important to support people with autism in the workforce.
"The great part about this program is the autism-specific training that will be given to the companies prior to the person with autism starting in the role as well as supporting that person when they are new on the job.
"People with autism often have high attention to details and a strong work effort, but employers may miss out on that due to minor misunderstandings. This program is just a small, but I think important, start to rectifying this issue."
For more information about employing people with disability, you can visit the JobAccess website.
For the latest updates on how COVID-19 is impacting the disability sector visit our dedicated COVID-19 information page.
How do you want to see people with autism supported in the workforce? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected].