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Employ Autism Network
Thursday 15 October 2020

New programme to tackle graduate unemployment

Santander, through Santander Universities, is coordinating a £1million investment into a ground-breaking higher education employability programme that will unlock the potential of hundreds of autistic students and boost the neurodiversity of the nation’s workforce.

Working in partnership with Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with autism, the Employ Autism Higher Education Network initiative launched by Santander Universities will enable autistic students studying at universities across the UK to access paid internships and tailored careers support and advice.

Latest research has found that autistic graduates are the least likely of all disabled students to find employment following their studies – with only 33% in full-time work(1).

This new programme aims to tackle this issue by ensuring autistic students and graduates have access to meaningful employment experience. It will also ensure businesses can benefit from neurodiverse talent within their workforces.  

Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, Jolanta Lasota, said: “Autistic students and graduates are among our brightest talents and yet too many face a much more challenging path into long-term employment than their neurotypical peers.

“Through our fantastic new partnership, Santander will be at the forefront of a nationwide drive to change this and transform the neurodiversity of our workforce. We will equip universities with the skills and knowledge to support these students into careers that match their talents with employers who can embrace difference.”

Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities UK said: “Santander is committed to supporting students from diverse backgrounds into university, work and self-employment so we’re pleased to join forces with Ambitious about Autism and a number of our university partners to launch this pioneering new programme. By working together, we hope to improve employment outcomes for autistic students and graduates by providing life changing opportunities.”

Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, said: “It’s great to see Santander leading by example by investing in the often untapped talent of autistic young people. Through innovative programmes like this, alongside the support that is available through government-funded programmes like Access to Work, we’re working together to unlock potential and remove barriers to employment.”

Over the course of the programme careers and employability professionals working within the new network of 17 universities will receive specialist training and support from Ambitious about Autism to work specifically with autistic students, helping to guide them into sustainable employment.

Working with professionals who understand their needs, students will receive support to identify roles that match their skills and given help with the application and recruitment process, which often needs to be adapted to allow autistic young people to shine.

Each university will then also work with local employers to create opportunities for these students to take part in internships with autism-confident businesses, providing them with valuable ‘on the job’ experience in a supportive environment.

In addition to this programme, Santander will also work with Ambitious about Autism to become an ‘autism confident’ employer. The charity will look at further ways to support the bank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion which sits at the heart of Santander’s pledge to creating a thriving workplace.

Santander and Ambitious about Autism’s Employ Autism Higher Education Network programme will bring together the higher education sector and employers to create further lasting employment opportunities for autistic young people across the UK.

For more information visit Employ Autism Higher Education Network page.