Victoria Reynolds is the workforce equality, diversity & inclusion lead at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
She spearheads the Empower Programme, which raises awareness of NHS employment opportunities for young people with autism.
Most people are nervous at the thought of attending an interview, let alone starting work. This can be particularly stressful for neurodiverse students.
Yet providing them with the right support and some simple adjustments can make a real difference in terms of the contribution they can make to our workforce.
I devised a pre-employment transition workshop for young people with autism from the local community to increase their confidence and explain the skills they need to demonstrate when applying for roles.
The workshop was facilitated by myself and colleagues from our medical education team. It focused on applying for roles in the NHS, support with interviews and even a fun introductory session on how to deliver cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). There was also an interactive session around information governance and how important it is in the workplace.
The workshop was well attended with a mixture of undergraduate and post graduate students from a variety of course disciplines from across the region.
For trusts wanting to support a similar workshop, my top tips would be to work with the students in advance to minimise potential stress by ensuring they are familiar with the content, the venue, and will be able to work comfortably in the environment provided.
Contact the students in advance of the course to send them the full content for the day so they know what to expect.
Invite the students to visit the venue ahead of the course so that they feel familiar with the teaching environment.
Ask the students whether any adjustments are needed, for example, around the volume level on videos and softer lighting.
Offer a separate quiet room for students to have their lunch in or take some time out in. It's also really useful to have someone on hand to provide any pastoral support to students if required.
Some of the feedback I received included:
- It felt informal and not stressful.
- Our preferences were respected.
- The disclosure session led to some really useful discussion.
- It was well organised, receiving information prior to the event, greeted by a volunteer and shown the training room.
- Very approachable, non-judgemental and genuine teaching that was informative.
- Discussing values and behaviours was useful information to be aware of when applying for jobs.
- They really catered to our specific needs.
Read Victoria's previous blogs on the Empower Programme:
Supporting people on the autism spectrum
Careers fairs for autistic students