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myWAY Employability is a smart web platform designed specifically to help young people on the autism spectrum plan and prepare for their working life.
myWAY Employability guides young people though a series of questions to help them identify their strengths, interests, learning and environmental preferences, and then matches this information to potential relevant careers and employment pathways. myWAY Employability provides scaffolded goal setting, to break goals into smaller action lists to track progress. It also contains a variety of information articles co-produced with the autistic community, covering topics such as Preparing for Work Experience; Getting Around; Creating a Job Application; Pathways to University, TAFE, or College; and Disclosure in the Workplace.
No. Access to everything on myWAY Employability is completely free and involves a very simple registration process.
Autism CRC’s vision is to see autistic people empowered to use their diverse strengths and interests. According to ABS 2018 data, almost one third of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed. This is more than three times the rate for people with disability and almost eight times the rate for people without disability. The situation is likely to have worsened in today’s COVID-affected employment market. In addition, only 26% of autistic adults attain a post-school qualification from university or TAFE (compared to 45% for people with disability and 59% for people without disability).
Unsuccessful transition to work increases the risk of labour-force and social exclusion, as well as physical and mental health issues. On the flipside, better transition leads to earlier potential for employment, higher job satisfaction, greater productivity in the workplace, and increased capacity for independent living.
Starting with the question, ‘How might we increase the self-determination of autistic young people to plan and prepare for post-school education, training, or work?’ we worked with young people to understand how we could support their career planning.
Autistic young people told us that they would be more likely to engage in career planning and goal setting if they had a resource designed specifically for them that was fun, engaging, and delivered personalised and practical information about relevant careers and pathways. To respond to this need, we created myWAY Employability.
myWAY Employability was developed through collaboration with autistic young people and the adults who support them. Autism CRC believes that improved opportunities for successful transition to post-school life, and participation in higher education, training, and employment, come from solutions that young people see as relevant, useful, and engaging.
Adopting a human-centred design approach, we worked with autistic young people to really understand their needs and preferences, explore potential solutions, and ultimately co-design, test, and refine myWAY Employability.
In the discovery phase (Stage 1) of myWAY Employability we engaged with over 220 stakeholders - young people, parents, health professionals, and educators. A further 90 autistic young people from Australia, NZ and the UK were involved in the co-design and development (Stage 2) of myWAY Employability; taking part in co-design workshops, user testing, and/or providing feedback on various elements of the website.
myWAY Employability has been designed specifically for and with young people on the autism spectrum. Unlike other career planning and information services designed for the general population, myWAY Employability provides a personalised profile matched to relevant career information and pathways, scaffolded goal-setting and action planning, and relevant information and resources that are co-produced with other young people on the autism spectrum.
In 2018, the Autism CRC delivered the Better OutcOmes and Successful Transitions for Autism (BOOST-A) information and training workshops to young people on the spectrum and their parents, teachers, therapists, employment support specialists, and local coordinators. Approximately 100 people attended these BOOST-A workshops in WA, VIC, NSW, and QLD. This included 15 young people on the spectrum, parents, teachers, allied health professionals, employment support specialists, mentors and local coordinators.
People who attended the workshops told us they felt more knowledgeable and confident to assist adolescents on the spectrum to plan and prepare for employment after learning about the BOOST-A. They agreed it was a useful tool and would use it in future and recommend it to others.
myWAY Employability now offers the wider community access to the career exploration and goal setting components of the BOOST-A.
Transition and career planning is important. You might consider how you can support your young person with goal-setting and tracking, work experience, job seeking, and career development, exploration and decision making about further education, professional learning, and training; and development of employability or “soft” skills, such as teamwork and communication skills.
Getting familiar with the myWAY Employability website is a great place to start. We like to refer to the people using our website as ‘myWayers’. It’s important to stay positive and encourage the myWAYer to be at the centre of their own career planning; in the driver’s seat; taking charge of their decisions and actions.
Findings from the Better OutcOmes and Successful Transitions for Autism (BOOST-A) research program identified five evidence-based Employability Principles to support transition planning of young people on the spectrum.
1) Encourage the adolescent to dream big: Have high expectations and always be strengths-based.
2) Start transition planning early: In Year 9 or as soon as possible after that.
3) Promote youth-centred planning: The young person should be an active participant, and work towards becoming the transition planning team leader.
4) Focus on the ‘big picture’: Support the adolescent to understand what life after school will be like through real life experiences; e.g., work experience, mentoring, volunteering, and part-time work.
5) Have a champion on the team: A champion is someone who is passionate and enthusiastic, and provides new opportunities and information to support transition planning.
You may also consider how you can help your myWayer to focus on a plan of action and stay on track to achieve their goals, and join them in celebrating every little success along the way.
myWAY Employability was developed through a collaboration between Autism CRC and Curtin University. More than 300 autistic young people, parents, allied health professionals, disability service providers and educators from around Australia have been involved in the co-design and development of myWAY Employability. Autism CRC also established a myWAY Employability Neurodiverse Youth Advisory Group (NYAG) to advise on the engagement elements of the website, content, and user expectations.
The design and development of myWAY Employability was led by the team from Autism CRC and Curtin University, along with technology development partner The Project Factory/WayToBlue, and support from CSIRO e-Health Institute, Department of Education QLD Autism Hub, and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).
myWAY Employability is proudly supported by the Telstra Foundation, funded under the Tech4Good Challenge initiative.