Inside the program finding STEM jobs for grads with disabilities

Employment for young people living with disability can offer a source of independence, as well as increasing the likelihood for an improved standard of living and better physical and mental health. Image: Shutterstock

People with disabilities can make a big impact in STEM thanks to initiatives like atWork Australia’s School2atWork program

A few years after graduating high school Thomas found himself at a career crossroads. He’d started a Bachelor’s Degree in IT but was finding the university environment challenging due to the difficulties he was facing in social settings. 

The 23-year-old is among the 164,000 Australians who have autism, a developmental condition that’s characterised by repetitive behaviour and challenges in social communication. 

But with these challenges comes a unique way of seeing the world – something which atWork Australia is helping employers see as a major plus.

Thomas is thriving in his new role as a Trainee Cyber Security Analyst. Image: atWork Australia

“We recognise that when it comes to disability, injury, a health condition or disadvantage, the very strengths and skills that help people live with their circumstances are also skills that are highly valued in the workplace, like determination, dedication, resilience and compassion,” stresses Steve Carder, General Manager of Disability Employment Services.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy meaningful work and that Australian businesses deserve to access the full talent pool.”

Increasing inclusivity and opportunity

With the unemployment rate for people on the autism spectrum at about 32% –  six times higher than the rate for those without a disability – atWork Australia’s School2atWork program is designed to assist and support students living with disability, injury or health condition to transition from school to work or further education. 

The program is available in over 300 locations across Australia and collaborates with local schools to provide information and support for students to plan their next steps in ultimately reaching their employment goals. 

The inclusion of dedicated job coaches helps school leavers become work-ready – offering post-placement support and support in the role, health and wellbeing coaching and access to in-house health services, as well as practical assistance like preparing a résumé and cover letter, interview skills training and employer negotiations.

Good job!

In the case of Thomas it was his coach Jenny who knew exactly where to hunt down work. She contacted the Untapped Group, who assist in recruiting people from the Autism community for DXC’s Dandelion program and other corporate initiatives. 

“I could see Thomas was an extremely intelligent and motivated job seeker, he just needed to find an employer that provided the type of work environment he could thrive in – Untapped came to mind immediately,” Jenny said.

Untapped were looking for new talent for Trainee Cyber Security Analyst roles and Thomas’ critical thinking, skills and goals proved the perfect fit! An offer was made and he became one of the company’s newest employees – joining the ANZ Bank’s Spectrum Program.

With research suggesting that diversity in STEM encourages innovation and creativity at work, boosting inclusivity has never been so important.

Want more info? Find out about the School2atWork program here


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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