By Sierra Macpherson and Cassandra Spurrell
Humber College will start offering a new program next month aimed at helping students with autism develop critical skills to enter and succeed in the workforce.
The Autism CanTech! program consists of a four-month course offering resume writing, business communication, and interview skills, along with a two-month paid work program.
Geraldine Babcock, Humber’s director of Community Outreach and Workforce Development said in an email the program is designed “to provide training to young adults on the autism spectrum who have an interest in technology, with the primary goal of building marketable skills in data management and to develop their business acumen, with the ultimate goal of having the students land a position in the digital economy.”
She added Humber will also work with potential employers to ensure they have the tools they need to support the students as they enter the workplace.
Evan Thomson has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and plans to come to Humber in the fall to study 3D animation.
“I think maybe this program would be helpful. I would definitely consider it because, first, I would love to meet other people on the spectrum,” he said. “I think it’s more so the mental effects and the socialization for me.”
Thomson said while some workplaces are very accommodating, many are not, and expect everyone to have the same understanding of how to succeed in the workplace even though some people with ASD might struggle in those settings.
“I feel like it’s implied that people already know work skills because they learned them in school, but it’s something they might struggle with in school; they struggle with work skills and social skills,” Thomson said.
Zach Blumke, a job developer for the ACT! Program, said the program has been a success since it launched Sept. 2021 at Douglas College in British Columbia.
“We had 17 people enter the work experience, and 17 people complete the work experience, so that was really great,” Blumke said.
Jenna Gauthier, ACT! Centre Manager is glad to see the program expanding to Humber and hopes more College learn about the program.
“I see this as an opportunity to really start paving the way for targeted accessible educational opportunities for diverse populations,” Gauthier said.
“It’s an opportunity for schools to start exploring new and unique ways of delivering post secondary programs and connecting that to career development in a way that serves various marginalized populations, individuals with unique learning needs.”
She says the most rewarding part of the program is seeing participants succeed in the workplace.
Thompson thinks it will very positive for program participants to be surrounded by others who are “in the same boat as them.”
“There are a lot of people who want to work and grow as people and get out of the house, and I just feel like it’s super important,” Thomson said.
“I feel like it’s going to help maybe even a lot of students at Humber who are struggling with being neurodivergent and maybe have a hard time making friends. I feel like this is probably going to help them as well.”