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Employment program supporting autistic adults wins National HR Award

CAN Research's supported workplace program - SwitchedOn - has been awarded the Australian HR Award for Best Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Program.

Rolled out in partnership with global consultancy firm EY, SwitchedOn is designed to promote inclusive workplaces and enhance recruitment and retention of autistic employees by providing end-to-end support for candidates and the employing organisation.

The framework on which this world-first program is based encompasses eight key areas for the employees and employers, including strengths and supports assessments, workplace training programs, workplace adaptations and accommodations, and ongoing tailored support. Crucially, this includes mental health assistance.

"The HR Award represents our commitment to fostering a workplace where both neurodivergent and neurotypical people can thrive and experience a sense of belonging and inclusion every day," said Laura Grant, EY's Oceania DE&I Talent Attraction and Acquisition Lead.

"It has been an absolute career highlight for me to work with - and learn so much from - researchers Professor Adam Guastella, Lorna Hankin and Dr Elizabeth Stratton, my colleagues Isaac Bromley and Sarah McCarthy, and all of our program participants."

Professor Guastella also acknolwedged EY for for creating and driving opportunities for autistic employees.

"I'm so proud of our employment program, our team and all our participants," he said. "And I'm particularly proud of our graduates for showing how inclusive practices make brilliant workplaces."

The workplace program led to all 12 autistic participants successfully completing paid 12-week placements at EY, with an incredible 75% remaining in ongoing employment after the program finished. The team is now seeking funding to roll out the employment program nationally.

"Our goal is to create a unique employment hub here at the University of Sydney that supports both individuals and businesses in urban and regional areas around Australia to thrive in a neurodiverse workplace," added Professor Guastella.

"Ultimately, gold-standard accessible workplace practices should be so embedded in organisational DNA, that workplace incubator programs will no longer be required."

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