Website Link  https://www.semel.ucla.edu/autism/college-career

An estimated 80 percent of autistic adults are unemployed. PEERS® for Careers is an innovative offering for autistic undergraduate and graduate students in their transition from college to career. The program is housed within the UCLA Tarjan Center, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and has been made possible by the support of Northwestern Mutual, Autism Speaks, the Max Factor Family Foundation, and the tireless work of the program’s Advisory Committee. PEERS® for Careers creates a scalable solution to employment barriers faced by autistic individuals and serves as a model of higher education training for colleges across the country. UCLA PEERS® for Careers teaches autistic young adults the necessary skills for obtaining and maintaining a job, including finding a good career fit, workplace social skills, resume-building, interviewing, conflict resolution, stress management, and navigating the workplace environment, along with providing an internship experience to practice learned skills. In addition to the curriculum, PEERS® for Careers participants receive weekly one-on-one career coaching to help them practice and apply these employment skills. Across the entire study to date, 106 autistic young adults have enrolled, with about 64% of those who have completed the 20-week program reporting being engaged in employment-related experiences (e.g., internship, volunteer, paid employment) during the follow-up phase after the 20-week program. The UCLA Employment Team has also developed a directory of over 180 community partners and over 110 internship/employment opportunities that has provided the young adults with a myriad of networking and employment opportunities.

After the 20-week intervention, young adults showed significant improvements in their employment-related social skills knowledge, feelings of preparedness for employment, and social responsiveness, as well as significant increases in paid employment. The results also support that career coaching was beneficial. Specifically, those who received a career coach were more likely to remain enrolled in the program and showed significantly greater improvements in employment-related social skills knowledge and feelings of preparedness for employment than those without a coach. Further, for participants who were not engaged in any employment-related activity prior to the intervention, those who received career coaching were significantly more likely than those that did not receive a coach to gain new employment, internship, or volunteer positions by post-intervention. The UCLA PEERS® for Careers team plans to continue to analyze data from after the 20-week intervention to determine how these skills benefited participants over time.