BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – An employer guideline aimed at increasing inclusivity and employment opportunities for individuals with autism is currently in the pipelines, a representative from the Uniklearn vocational training programme said.

Uniklearn will be drawing up a trainee’s standard operating procedure (SOP) for its vocational programme, which can also be used as a reference for future employers to train individuals with autism. 

“The awareness amongst employers [to become more inclusive] is there, but if they want to employ [jobseekers with autism], they need to know how to react and adapt to them,” general manager of An-Nur Harapan, Melline Hj Jaini, told The Scoop.

Uniklearn is a vocational training programme for individuals with autism and is a collaboration between Startup Brunei, An-Nur Harapan, Spark Lifeskill Centre, Progresif Cellular and kingston Beverage and Creamery.

As of March this year, only 56 persons with disabilities are currently employed out of 9,282 individuals registered. Official statistics indicate that 4,303 are diagnosed with autism in Brunei.

Uniklearn caters to the trainee’s individual development and the training will focus on communication and motor skills as well as basic functional math.

“This is a pilot programme. There are already major players in the autism area but not so much yet when it comes to [vocational job training for] young adults,” Melline said.

As part of their on-the-job training, they will help manage a pop-up cafe at Progresif Cellular’s headquarter in Gadong selling Uniklearn’s own brand of ice-cream, Unikkone. They will also receive post-training support, including work transition support for subsequent internship or work opportunities.

Melline added: “In terms of labour laws [our training programme] is within the labour guidelines.”

The An-Nur general manager added that there was still a lot of nervousness and uncertainty surrounding the project from the public — particularly on whether the project will be able to deliver its objectives.

Five trainees comprised the first batch to undergo the training through scholarships provided by An-Nur Harapan. The trainees, aged between 17 and 25 years old, were shortlisted from Ministry of Education’s Special Needs Education Unit. Their training began in June this year at a newly established autism centre, the SPARK Lifeskill Centre in Jangsak.

In a previous interview with The Scoop, president of SMARTER Brunei Malai Hj Abdullah Malai Hj Othman, said lack of resources and backing have limited SMARTER’s social entrepreneurship programme which aims to create jobs tailored for its members.

He highlighted that it was difficult for persons with disabilities (PWD) to remain competitive in the job market in relation to Brunei’s high rate of unemployment.