We all remember that feeling of uncertainty in those final few months of high school: ‘will I do well in my exams, what career path will I take, will I get into the university of my choice, will I get the apprenticeship I want so badly’…?
For many young school leavers with autism or mental health issues, this transition phase can present additional challenges with limited career and further education opportunities available to suit their needs.
Through the Tech4Good challenge, three non-profits – Autism CRC, Raise Foundation and Top Blokes Foundation – are developing digital platforms to increase the accessibility of their support and mentoring services to reach more young people in need, and help them thrive.
Autism CRC is the world’s first national, cooperative research effort focusing on autism across the lifespan of an individual. Their vision is to see autistic people empowered to discover and use their diverse strengths and interests.
In the Tech4Good Challenge, the Autism CRC team designed a digital solution to help school leavers on the spectrum identify their strengths and interests, set goals and track progress on their path to a successful career.
“Almost two-thirds of people on the spectrum are unemployed. Reaching young people with a tailored program while they are still in school is critical because receiving the right support to plan and prepare early can set them up for success.” says project co-leader, Cheryl Mangan.
Autism CRC sees a need and opportunity for their digital platform – MyWay Employability – and have engaged over 230 young people, parents, professionals, and educators to co-design the service.
“Unlike generic career information services, MyWay Employability is co-produced with the autistic community to help young people identify their strengths and interests matched to relevant careers and pathways,” says project co-leader Marina Ciccarelli.
MyWay Employability will be launched as a mobile-first web application and trialled with thousands of young people all over Australia.
“We are working with parents and educators to ensure MyWay Employability is there for the very first conversation a young person has about their future, to help them prepare for their first work experience, and for long-term success.” says Cheryl.
“Our long-term goal is to make MyWay Employability available to the 44,000 young people on the spectrum aged 14-to-25 in Australia today, and specifically the 29,000 who are unemployed and underemployed,” adds Marina.
“We want autistic young people to recognise the skills and strengths they have to offer, to confidently enter the workforce and achieve success in their chosen pathways and careers.”
The Raise Foundation was created in 2008 to help empower young people to become more resilient, more capable and more connected through best practice mentoring programs in secondary schools.
“We know the mentoring approach works – the power of having someone neutral to talk to, who really listens and actually hears you is extraordinary. We’ve seen firsthand how it builds confidence, self-esteem and creates a safe environment for young people to ask for help when they need it,” says Volunteer Engagement Director Cherelle Martin.
“However, over the last few years we’ve found it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain volunteers to mentor young Australians,” continues Cherelle.
Research conducted during the Tech4Good challenge revealed Raise volunteers were frustrated by the manual processes and systems, and many were unaware of the impact they were making in the community, and therefore didn’t always feel compelled to support Raise’s programs year after year.
“As a result, we’ve completely overhauled our onboarding process and developed a digital engagement platform to manage our large volunteer base in a more streamlined and cohesive manner, we’re calling it the Raise Digital Village,” says Cherelle.
“The digital portal provides program information, calendar functionality, onboarding tools to facilitate Youth Safe Checks with government agencies, as well as training and program selection interfaces for our volunteers.”
The Raise Digital Village will also help volunteers to realise the impact of their volunteering with young people, and over time will scale up to include more features to complete the mentoring experience.
“Looking further ahead, we’ll introduce individual feedback and performance improvement opportunities, partnerships with the government organisations to simplify the legislation that can make it really challenging for our volunteers,” says Cherelle.
“When our full roadmap is realised, we will have the capability to on-board 15,000 mentors annually – 15 times our current yearly intake – and extend our social impact to benefit the broader community.”
Top Blokes Foundation
Do you have a young person in your life who you care about? Have they ever struggled with stress or a mental health issue? Do you believe they have the ability to be so much more than the problems they currently face?
So does the Top Blokes Foundation.
Established in 2006, Top Blokes aims to foster the social inclusion and resilience of young men aged 16 to 24 by empowering them to employ positive ddecision-makingskills, become positive role models, adopt healthier lifestyle choices and develop personal qualities of integrity, character and respect for others.
“Research tells us that young men experiencing mental health issues are less likely to seek professional help than others, which is why we focus on addressing social issues and removing stigmas by starting a positive conversation through our programs,” says Program Manager Callum Franciskovic.
Through the Tech4Good Challenge, Callum and the Top Blokes team are redesigning the online platform for their highly successful Building Blokes program to support more young men who are struggling to get help.
“One of our biggest challenges is capturing and retaining the attention of these at-risk young men, most of whom live in regional or rural areas without any real support structures,” says Callum.
“We believe this online platform can help fill that gap by providing information in an accessible format, support services via video as well as improved back of house functionality for our teams.”
Visit The Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good hub to find out more about the Tech4Good Challenge and the 15 participating non-profits.