Research to boost job prospects of autistic graduates

Successful university graduates with autism often find it difficult to access graduate employment. To bridge the employment gap, the Athena Institute of the Vrije Universiteit participates in the project Improving employability of autistic graduates in Europe (IMAGE), which hopes to find effective solutions for this problem.

12/05/2018 | 12:27 PM

The findings of the project will be shared during a major international conference in 2021. The long-term impact will be greater autism awareness amongst professionals, more inclusive HE institutions and procedures, better skilled autistic graduates, and ultimately more autistic graduates in employment.

Waste of talent
People with autism make up about 1% of the population. More and more pupils and students are well supported at school and university, enabling them to complete their studies successfully. The level of performance at the university is often very high among this group. Employment statistics for graduates show that this talent is often wasted because successful university graduates find it hard to find work at an academic level or even work at all. The reasons are multifold: Careers advice provided by HE institutions is ineffective for autistic students; academic tutors lack understanding of how best to support autistic students develop employability skills or gain work experience; recruitment procedures create barriers; and employers are unsure how to support autistic graduates in the job. This is despite the many qualities that make them desirable employees: attention to detail, honesty, loyalty, working longer hours and punctuality.

From employability toolkit to training
Employers can benefit from the skills and abilities of these graduates. The Athena Institute of the VU is, led by dr Mitzi Waltz and dr Elena Syurina, one of the five European universities participating in the IMAGE-project. To bridge the employment gap, evidence from students, graduates and career counselors will be collected; an evidence-based employability tool to support students in career planning will be created; training and advice for career counselors will be developed; and contact with employers will be maintained. All research results will be created through participatory research. They are tested and evaluated during the project and then made freely available to the universities, external HR professionals and employers.

For more information about IMAGE: and