ACT! Blog

 

Changing the World

Autism CanTech! is an innovative new program that addresses the challenges to employment for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), between the ages of 18-30, who are looking for meaningful employment. A task that has not been historically easy for them, considering that less than 15% of youth with ASD are employed due to circumstances that often have nothing to do with their abilities. From public fear and a lack of awareness in business of what ASD is and is not, to a lack of inclusive employment strategies, and a lack of supports within business, youth themselves have also been challenged by training programs that often simply do not meet their unique needs.  

Despite these challenges, a large number of Autistic youth have shown an aptitude for technology and roles that often offer repetitive tasks or that require attention to detail. Roles that Canada’s tech industry sorely needs filled. 

To bridge these challenges, Autism CanTech! was created to provide learner-centric curriculum to Autistic youth, in both employability skills, to help them navigate corporate structures and processes, and job specific technical skills that fill specific roles within the tech industry. These skills include: Foundations of Data Analytics and Business Intelligence, Digital Asset Management, and Audio Post-Production.  

Operating from the social model of disability, Autism CanTech! does not look to change the participants that enter the program, but rather the work environment they are placed in. Changes that include offering training and consulting to employers to help grow their inclusive employment strategies, and offering support, for both the Autistic employee and employers. This support is offered when participants enter into a paid Work Integrated Learning (WIL) experience that helps employers operationalize and develop their inclusive policies and strategies. An initiative that also gives the Autistic employee real-world experience, and that often leads to an offer of full-time employment. This support is offered through Job Coaches, who not only work one-on-one with each participant throughout the length of the program, but who also offer that same support to the employer. 

This unique strategy and program, to date, has shown exceptional results, both in terms of successfully training Autistic youth and helping them to achieve full-time employment, but also by imbuing participants with confidence and a belief in their future.   

One program alumni gave the story of their first job after graduating from Autism CanTech! working for a downtown Information Technology company as a support worker while going back to school to enhance their programming. They attribute the program to their success and spoke about learning with how to be okay with small failures (what they called clown shoe mistakes)…about learning how to laugh it off and learn from their mistakes. Before Autism CanTech! the participant had a lot of anxiety starting anything new and a misdirected sense of perfectionism. ACT! taught them how to learn as they go and to ask for help when it’s needed.  

For other program participants, they note the program has bolstered intrinsic motivation and a reason to get out of bed each day, facilitating the work rituals of commuting and providing hope toward their future career in an emergent field.     

Another program alumni won an Employer quarterly award within his first 8 months of employment by helping his employer to develop more efficient processes, while yet another, found within himself the confidence to look for employment post-graduation without support, despite their being supports available to help him. The result? He is now employed full-time at a software development company, despite never having finished high school, and never believing in himself enough, prior to Autism CanTech!, to think that he’d ever find a place in the world.  

These and other results of Autism CanTech! have been nothing short of amazing. As the team that administers the program likes to say, they are “changing the world.” Participants come away with new-found confidence, skills, and often full-time employment opportunities, and employers come away with a new way of looking at Autism, diversifying their workforce, and opening their eyes to the potential that Autistic employees offer. Understanding that while Autistic employees might not present themselves in typical ways, they can still come into an organization and find success using strategies that will put the company’s core values into play and help them to achieve tangible results. 

Autism CanTech! has also offered parents of Autistic youth something to look forward to, as many have always known that their kids were employable, they just never knew how to get them there. Thanks to Autism CanTech! their young adult children now have direction, hope, goals, motivation and most of all confidence.  

To date, with three of a proposed sixteen cohorts now finished, and with the additional supports provided by the Employment Transition Coordinator, the results speak for themselves: Autism CanTech! has a successful employment rate of 48.39%, proving that Autism CanTech! is indeed changing the world.  

 

NorQuest College
Edmonton Campus

10230 108 St NW
Edmonton, AB T5J 4Z7
contact@autismcantech.ca
1.833.405.9919

Douglas College
New Westminster campus

700 Royal Avenue 
New Westminster, BC V3M 5Z5 
778.628.5823 

Humber College
North Campus

205 Humber College Blvd,
Toronto, ON  M9W 5L7
416.795.5561

Program information


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Treaty Acknowledgement

Amiskwac√ģw√Ęskahikan

The ACT! Program is honoured to teach and learn across many traditional and treaty lands including the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples of the QayQayt (KuhKite) and Kwikwetlem First Nations to the West; through the treatied lands and traditional territories of the Nehiyawak, Dene, Stoney Nakoda, Nakota Sioux, Tsuutina, Annishnabe, Metis, and Inuit; all the way to the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit in the Place of the Alders along the Humber River Watershed in the East. The Autism CanTech! Team is dedicated to ensuring that Indigenous voice is centered, honoured and respected. In this spirit, we invite you to reflect on your relationship to the lands on which you are currently located, and take action for positive change in your community in this time of reconciliation.