Autism Nova Scotia Truro Chapter Facebook photo

TRURO – A virtual program to help prepare those on the autism spectrum for the workplace is about to launch another 24-week session.

Autism Nova Scotia is offering the program for individuals between the ages of 15 and 64 through its branch in Truro, which serves Colchester County and the Municipality of East Hants.

“EmploymentWorks is a federally-funded evidence-based program to support those on the autism spectrum to enhance their skills to secure employment,” said Jessica McKee-Mitchell, employment and supports specialist with Autism Nova Scotia.

The program, she says, is offered in two 12-week phases, for a total of 24 weeks. Phase one offers weekly sessions for participants to work on career exploration, soft skill development, and employment readiness. It also includes structured learning sessions, including how to build a resume and cover letter, as well as a job sampling program.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the EmploymentWorks program will be done virtually, so no job sampling will be available.

Instead, says McKee-Mitchell, the first phase will include group discussions, videos, and role playing to help give participants an idea of what a work place looks like.

Phase two of the program is individualized to each participant. The participants are attached to the labour market, and the organization continues to work with the participant on where they might need additional support going forward.

“They will gain pre-employment skills during phase one, and phase two is more about using fading our support and the participant gaining their independence in employment,” said Jamie-Lynn Black, clinical supervisor.

The program has been offered in the Halifax area since 2016, with an expansion to rural areas in 2019. This will be the third time it will be offered in the Colchester and East Hants area.

This session has space available for four participants, and begins June 2.

When it comes to the employment rate nationally for those on the autism spectrum, Black says it sits around 15 to 20 per cent.

“There is such a need for this program,” she said. “It’s very needed in that it provides those on the spectrum with crucial training and support, and helps secure meaningful employment, and sustainable employment.”

With more than 100 individuals participating in the program since 2016, Black says 92 per cent achieved enhanced employability, and 88 per cent have been employed.

The program is open to those on the autism spectrum between the ages of 15 and 64, who are no longer accessing the school system. Returning graduates, however, are eligible. The program will be offered through Zoom.

For more information on the program or to apply, contact Jessica McKee-Mitchell at jmckeemitchell@autismns.ca or 902-210-3240.