A unique initiative designed to improve the employment chances for graduates with autism takes place this week at the University of Bath today (Wednesday 17 April).

Over two days, the Bath Employment Spring School for Autism (BESSA) - a partnership between our Centre for Applied Autism Research (CAAR) and JP Morgan Chase - will offer over 30 University students and recent graduates with autism tailored support in preparing for work and hunting for jobs.

Prospects for autistic graduates

Fewer than one in six autistic adults are employed full-time, and those that are employed are often under-employed in jobs below their abilities. Despite possessing high-functioning skills that can make those with autism particularly well-suited to certain jobs, they often lack knowledge and skills that could help with job hunting and awareness of different career paths. There are nearly 700,000 people in the UK with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The Bath Employment Spring School for Autism builds on JP Morgan Chase’s successful US programme ‘Autism at Work’ which aims to help graduates with autism find work that matches their skills and attributes.

It was first run in 2018 and complements the successful Autism Summer School which has been run since 2013. This is designed to help younger students with autism transition into higher education.

Day one (Wednesday) will take place at the University of Bath with day two (Thursday) run at JP Morgan Chase’s Bournemouth campus. This will include a tour of their innovation space, a panel session with employees with ASD and activities to provide insight and guidance on interview techniques.

Highly-attuned skills

Dr Chris Ashwin, Deputy Director for Research at CAAR, commented: “We know that graduates with autism have a unique set of highly-attuned skills that can make them incredibly valuable to a whole range of organisations. Yet all too often, barriers are put in their way that prevent them from applying for the right kind of jobs, being successful at interview or transitioning into organisations.

“This important collaboration between the University of Bath and JP Morgan Chase is about valuing the incredible contributions that autistic people can make and finding new ways to help them find the right kinds of work.”

James Mahoney, Executive Director and Head of Autism at Work at JP Morgan Chase, added: “We’re delighted to expand J.P. Morgan’s Autism at Work Program with the help of the Centre for Applied Autism Research at the University of Bath. Through the programme, we’re developing better career paths for graduates with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), improving our interviewing techniques to capture strong talent and deploying new training for managers and non-ASD colleagues.

“We began a pilot program in 2015 with four people, and it has since grown to dozens of individuals across five countries in a variety of roles across the firm. Our aim is to expand to several hundred people by 2020. We look forward to continuing the success with our partnership with the Centre for Applied Autism Research.”