Individuals with autism may soon benefit from a new vocational training programme tailored to hone their employability and entrepreneurship skills.

The six-month UnikLearn programme will allow autistic youth as young as 16 years old to be assessed, trained and try their hands at managing a pop-up cafe. The pilot programme is a collaboration between Startup Brunei, An-Nur Harapan, Spark Lifeskill, Progresif Cellular and Kingston Beverage and Creamery.

“The first two months of the programme will be an assessment period. [During this time] the trainers at Spark Lifeskill will see which jobs will best suit the individual based on their personalities and capabilities. The necessary training and internship will follow,”  the founder of autism centre Spark Lifeskill Chin Jern Hua, better known as McCoy, told The Scoop.

For its pilot programme, which will start in a few weeks, UnikLearn is hopeful to train up to 10 autistic youth. Participants will not only benefit from personalised training — tailored to their own strengths and qualities — they will also be given industry experience by helping to manage a pop-up store selling ice cream.

The pop-up store will be held at the Progresif Cellular’s headquarters in Gadong, where participants will sell UnikLearn’s own line of premium ice cream — UnikKone. Trainees will be involved in the front line and serving, proceeds from UnikKone will go to UnikLearn’s fund.

According to UnikLearn’s website, training will focus on holistic skills needed for independent living with the end goal of working towards employability. It will cost $800 a month to take part in the programme.

Through the upcoming pilot phase, the organisers aim to establish industry relations with other organisations for future work placements. “(This project) is something that is unique, this is about inclusion,” a representative of An-Nur Harapan said, adding that she believes that it will set precedence in enabling more differently-abled individuals to become employable.