National Museum of Computing's programme to support autistic people a success at Bletchley Park

The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes is running an annual programme to help people with autism develop employability skills.

It's hoped the programme will address the barriers many autistic people face when it comes to finding paid employment.

Staff at the museum also want to encourage other employers to become more welcoming.

James has been volunteering at the museum for a year. Credit: ITV News Anglia

James Walker is one of 20 people on the programme. After a year of volunteering, the museum are keen to recruit him into a paid role.

He's absolutely exceptional in the 3D printing area, good fun being part of the team, and we've also worked on lots of products for the shop. He's very keen on robotics so James is definitely the best person to go onto this programme, to just engage and actually find the confidence and work out where the best skills are placed.

Jacqui Garrard, Director, National Museum of Computing
Jacqui Garrad, Director at the NMOF (left) and James Walker, a volunteer at the NMOC (right). Credit: ITV News Anglia

James says being on the scheme has given him enormous confidence.

I've known I've had some skills already, I've managed to make it this far in life. But, it's certainly given me the confidence to make use of those skills. I've found it thoroughly enjoyable and having a purpose to actually go out and do something.

James Walker

Of autistic people in the UK are in paid employment

Figures say somewhere between 1 in 60 and 1 in 100 people in the UK are currently diagnosed as autistic – and of this only 16% are currently in paid employment.

Many autistic people have a range of skills that enable them to thrive in a wide variety of roles, however, they are often disadvantaged when it comes to getting and keeping a job because of difficulties with social communication and interaction and employers’ lack of understanding.

This programme hopes to combat these issues.

Many computing geniuses like Alan Turing are believed to have been neurodiverse. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

It's especially fitting to run the placement at the museum because so many computing geniuses, like Alan Turing, are believed to have been neurodiverse themselves.

It's a sign of how much talent is being wasted with so many autistic people not given a chance

Dame Stephanie Shirley CH is sponsoring the programme. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The programme is being sponsored by Dame Stephanie Shirley CH. Through her charitable Shirley Foundation, she's initiated a number of pioneering projects in autism, working to improve the lives of the autistic community.

Those that are employed are generally under-employed, sometimes part-time, and sometimes very casual. So there's an enormous waste of talent here.

Dame Stephanie Shirley CH

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