Albi Shani studied to be a health records clerk, but he’s struggled to find work in his chosen field. Instead, he’s been working part-time at a grocery store collecting shopping carts.
But on Friday, Shani was feeling upbeat about his prospects, as he joined hundreds of other jobseekers at a job fair in Toronto created specifically for people with autism.
“It’s great to meet employers and have a chance to get interviewed,” Shani told CTV’s John Vennavally-Rao.
Autism is a common disorder, affecting about 1 in 66 children in Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
People with autism might struggle with social cues and communication, making job interviews especially difficult. They also face stigma. Research has shown that more than 80 per cent of people with autism are unemployed or underemployed.
But that doesn’t mean employers are starting to recognize the potential. Representatives from about a dozen companies, including software companies, banks and hospitality firms were at Friday’s recruiting event.
Scotiabank’s Silman Saleem said he attended the job fair, called Spectrum Works, last year when it was first held, and that it was such a great experience that he decided to come back.
“Some of the strongest candidates that we get are from events like these,” Saleem said.
Saleem said that the bank has a range of jobs available, including customer service, administration and technology.
“Someone who may not like dealing with customers directly can always come to one of our administration departments or even finance,” he said. “It depends on what they’ve done in school and where they see themselves in the future.”
Xavier Pinto, who was one of four friends who created Spectrum Works, has an eight-year-old son with autism.
“Hopefully by the time he’s of age, most of the stigma’s broken down,” he said.