Supporting Autism in the Workplace event bridges gap

A strategic partnership of three Northampton-based organisations hosted a Supporting Autism in the Workplace event in May, which saw 25 people attend from industries including IT, logistics, education and manufacturing.

TRACK NN, ACS Recruitment and the University of Northampton joined forces to hold the event at the Swan Valley branch of Pets at Home to show employers how the partnership can help them to make their workplaces more accessible to those with autism.

Ex-teacher Thomas Cliffe of TRACK NN Limited was so shocked by statistics that showed that only 16% of adults with autism were in full-time employment that he felt compelled to do something. Earlier this year he opened TRACK NN as a way of giving work experience to people with autism and a place for prospective employers to see people at work, as typically, those with autism tend to struggle with formal interviews and other traditional recruitment processes.

ACS Recruitment partnered with TRACK NN shortly afterwards, becoming its recruitment partner. Each week someone from ACS Recruitment comes to the café and Thomas highlights any potential candidates. ACS Recruitment ascertains their skills and matches them with employers, hand-holding companies to ensure that the process is smooth and stress-free for everyone involved. Together they have now placed six candidates into employment. One of these, Jonathan Littlemore, spoke at the event of his experience. He secured a job in the ecommerce department of Pets at Home and told the room about how the company had made adjustments to their onboarding process, including putting together an information booklet with photos ahead of his start date so he knew where to park, what the building looked like and what security was in place, removing any anxieties for him.

Charlotte Patrick, Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement at University of Northampton, worked with TRACK NN and ACS Recruitment to organise and manage the event. She said: “I lead several industry forums in Northamptonshire, one of these being HR. Earlier in the year, many of our members attended the Working Progress Spotlight on Autism event. Several businesses requested further information on how they could make their workplaces more accessible to those with autism. As part of the event, we updated on the University of Northampton’s Special Education Needs Employment Links (SENEL) project, which helped young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) move successfully from vocational training and further education into employment.

“After talking to Chris and Thomas, the idea for the Supporting Autism in the Workplace event was born. The feedback we have had from the event has been excellent. Many businesses said they found the information extremely useful and quite a few have since contacted Thomas and asked for his input in pulling together items such as photo resources and helping them to make their workplaces more accessible for those with autism.”

Chris Wright, Director at ACS Recruitment, added: “The purpose of the event was to get businesses in a room and help them to understand how they could get involved and how the partnership can help them. We were amazed by the response. There were a few tears and employers asked some really good, well thought out questions. General consensus was that, while businesses were really behind the idea, they were worried they would have to change their workplace systems and procedures a lot. This event showed them that by simply tweaking their onboarding processes, for example, by providing an information booklet, they can really help people with autism joining their company. Once the candidate is into employment they, generally, don’t need to be treated any differently.”

Thomas Cliffe said: “We had a fantastic turnout with a range of businesses showing a commitment to autism and helping people into employment. By hearing from people who have secured employment through this partnership first-hand and seeing how it can work in practice really made them think about the day to day and ask some thought-provoking questions. I have had several follow-ups already and am hopeful that this event is just the start for building some great relationships, starting some conversations and, ultimately, getting people into employment.”

For more information on how you can support autism in the workplace, contact Thomas Cliffe on 07545 354265 or