Tapping Into Neurodiversity
There is a vast pool of talent amongst young adults who are on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). And for a long time, they have been overlooked for all the wrong reasons. People with autism have not had a fair shot at succeeding at work because of the workplace, workflow and business practices that aren’t particularly effective for anyone especially for those who are neurodiverse.
All this happens because of how little awareness there is (autism used to be a taboo subject) and a lack of understanding about the spectrum. Young adults with autism also face other challenges that are somewhat of a deterrent in regards to employment opportunities – soft skills. These do not refer to the ability and skill someone needs to complete a specific job, but instead to the more dubious qualities that employers often seek in their candidates. Soft skills include communication and interpersonal skills, the reaction to feedback, work collaboratively and manage time amongst others.
However, with Enabling Academy’s Employment Transition Programme, we know that these things can change.
“The Enabling Academy runs a 3-month Employment Transition Programme provided for adults on the autism spectrum who are 21 years old and above. We focus on personal development, career development, offer soft skills training and a simulated office environment to have them better equipped at a future employer’s workplace,” Wong Su Ann explains.
“Since the start of Enabling Academy, now there’s more awareness. Not just for the parents, families or graduates but also partner companies,” Syafika Pabir.
Enabling Academy works hard to educate the business community about people with autism and what they are truly capable of.
Catherine Chin, Senior Job Coach & Trainer
“If I were to describe it differently, we are like a job agency sometimes. We function as a bridge between them and the employers. For our partner companies, they are not just hiring. They are doing much more than that in terms of providing support,” says Catherine Chin.
Employers are often unaware that many people with autism have common strengths which include intense attention to detail, commitment to quality and consistency, creative and “out of the box” thinking, excelling on repetitive tasks, lower turnover rates, honesty and loyalty. These qualities are also verified by acclaimed corporations like DRB-HICOM Berhad, CIMB, HSBC, OCBC, Maran Road Sawmill and UNIQLO.
Tan Ming Mei, Senior Job Coach & Trainer
“With more awareness and also better inclusion, more companies can see the benefits of employing neurodiverse individuals. And, they also learn how to tap into the strengths of the individual. So, they start to provide adjustments to be more inclusive in the workplace. With this uptrend figure, we firmly believe that more companies will embrace this neurodiversity culture or value in the workplace,” Tan Ming Mei supports.
Thus, the Enabling Academy creates a tremendous opportunity for businesses to access a largely untapped labour pool of qualified job candidates who happen to have an ASD diagnosis.
Yeo Swee Lan, Manager & Trainer
“Our key objective is to create sustainable employment for the graduates from Enabling Academy. And we can’t do this alone, and we have to work with other companies to train them, developing their support system within the company to provide the necessary support for the individuals that are going to work with them,” Yeo Swee Lan.
Project Differently-Abled (DA) was launched in 2013 as an avenue to recruit individuals living in the spectrum. With the success of Project DA, Enabling Academy (EA) was established in 2017, aimed at preparing more young adults with autism for gainful sustainable employment in corporate companies. With 50 graduates in the Malaysian workforce and 18 partner companies from various industries to date, it has been a positive experience for the Enabling Academy, young adults with autism disorder, their families and partner companies.
Grace Gan, Senior Job Coach & Trainer
“There is no employment quota system for people with disabilities in Malaysia, but companies are now initiating to recruit people with special needs in the workforce and recognise their potential,” Grace Gan concluded.
Funded by Yayasan Gamuda, Enabling Academy is a registered Practical Assessment Centre for Accreditation of Prior Achievement since November 2018. This programme is a collaboration with the Department of Skills Development under the Ministry of Human Resources with the aim to establish more Employment Training Centres to prepare people with autism for sustainable employment.