Tuesday 31 January 2012

Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers Programme and Decision-Making in the Digital Economy

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works. First of all, apologies for the lateness of this blog entry as we have been busy at Autism Works submitting an application to the Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers Programme as well as, among other things, talking about decision-making in relation to the ever-growing digital economy in regarding transition planning for young people with Asperger's Syndrome. Also during last week, I gave my annual lecture at Northumbria University to the MA (Hons) students, which as usual, was fun.

One of the themes that I talked about during my lecture was the confusion that young people with Asperger's Syndrome, sometimes in relation to high-level anxiety they experience when faced with decisions that affect their immediate and long-term futures, can experience during transitional periods when contemplating what to pursue regarding education and careers. With stronger awareness of autism and Asperger's Syndrome in schools as well as access to diagnosis being so much better than it was for many of us who were born in the 1960s, 1970s and early-1980s, those being diagnosed earlier in life have a head start. Such a head start in knowing your strengths and weaknesses can enable effective decision-making about one's future, but to make such decisions, one usually benefits from the right guidance and information.

Working with the Sunderland Autism Sub-Group, something that we have identified is that as well as the need to raise awareness of autism and Asperger's Syndrome within potential employers, much work is also needed in raising further awareness within careers and employment advice services, including Connexions and JobcentrePlus, particularly when it comes to enabling young people with Asperger's Syndrome to make informed choices in relation to the needs of the ever-changing labour market. This includes helping young people with Asperger's Syndrome develop an awareness of the labour market, looking at careers that will be available in the immediate future as well as those that won't.

Over the last 30 years, Sunderland's labour market has shifted from coal-mining and ship-building to call-centres and automotive production. With the development of Sunderland Software City, Sunderland now looks to be heading towards playing a major part in the move towards the digital economy. Data from Sunderland Software City suggests that the digital economy has an estimated value of £250 million in the North East of England and that Sunderland itself has more technology start-up companies than anywhere in the UK outside London. As it is likely that the digital economy is where most of Sunderland's workforce, and indeed a sizeable percentage of the North East's total workforce, is likely to be based as the decade unfolds, it is essential that tomorrow's workforce members, including young people with Asperger's Syndrome, are equipped with the necessary skills.

Developing alongside Sunderland Software City, Autism Works is well-placed to provide the digital economy in the north east, nationally and internationally with better tested software that it will no doubt create competition and demand for. This should give a strong case in our application to the Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers Award. Elsewhere, over the last week I have done some more stargazing following on from Stargazing Live, including visiting Sunderland Astronomical Society's Cygnus Observatory with Dan Cottrell, one Autism Works' two Software Test Analysts, who also enjoyed the experience. We got some great views of Jupiter and its four largest moons through the 14-inch reflecting telescope that they have there, as well as seeing a demonstration of Stellarium, planetarium software.

This week, I have been working on some charity fundraising challenges as well as aurora-chasing, which hopefully I should have some more information to include in my next blog entry this coming Friday. Stay tuned to find out more!

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