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About the Rise program
Rise is a recruitment program that provides people on the autism spectrum with sustainable and meaningful employment options. The program was established by the former Victorian Department of Health and Human Services in 2017. Forgoing the traditional recruitment process, the program instead uses half-day Discovery Days to recruit people with autism to demonstrate their strengths and role-related capabilities over an extended period of time.
“Traditional recruitment processes can make it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to enter the workplace. In addition, a poor understanding of autism and a lack of support for autistic employees can create barriers to maintaining employment.” – Chris Hofmann.
People on the spectrum have consistently been underrepresented in the workforce due to stigma and the difficulties they may face in navigating traditional recruitment systems.
The Rise program aims to:
- remove barriers to recruitment
- evaluate the impact of participation in the program on the health and wellbeing of people with autism
- identify organisational factors contributing to the perceived effectiveness of the program
- identify barriers and enablers informing future implementation.
Information for recruiters
The Rise program not only works to provide employment to people on the autism spectrum, it has also been used as a stepping stone for Rise team members to move into other positions within the department and the wider public sector.
To date, 25 people on the spectrum have entered the program and remain employed in careers in government. With the focused use of the Rise Recruitment and Support Framework, that number is expected to rise.
Recruitment and support framework
The Rise recruitment and support framework (Word) provides an alternative approach to the recruitment process, letting job candidates show their role-related skills and personal strengths over an extended recruitment period.
This approach provides applicants with the opportunity to demonstrate their fitness for a role. The framework was developed as a result of evidence-based research and 3 years of experience.
The specialised assessment has also removed the need for participants to undergo an interview, with assessment of the individual focusing on their application to the role in the form of a half-day Discovery Day.
The framework has 5 stages:
- Promote – initial promotion of the Rise program will occur on a public-facing website or portal account. It will include comprehensive information about the opportunities in the Rise team and the environment in which the team operates.
- Learn – this stage provides candidates with an opportunity to learn more about the role, the environment and the government as an employer. This also helps the Rise management team learn more about the candidate’s skills and whether they might be a good fit for the role. This stage has 2 components:
- an online application form
- a half-day onsite introduction to the working environment (Discovery Day).
- Internship – this stage offers candidates full exposure to the role. There are 2 paid internship components in the program. The first is a two-week Internship Stage One. This is followed by a four-week Internship Stage Two for successful candidates who are interested in continuing and who meet goals set together in Internship Stage One.
- Offer and onboarding – this stage involves offering the successful candidates roles within the organisation and getting them started in the workplace.
- Ongoing support – this is an extension of the support offered during the internship stage.
To ensure equity, respect and clarity in the workplace, the Rise program uses the STOP-C Tool:
The tool is used at each of the 5 stages of the framework and is focused on:
- Sensory – Common for people on the autism spectrum to have hyper and/or hypo sensitivities to one or more sense - for example sensitivities relevant to the workplace can be to light, smell, sound, touch or movement
- Transparency – There are many unwritten and unstated rules within each workplace which can create uncertainty and stress for autistic people who have not been exposed to typical working environments due to barriers to employment
- Organisational culture – Determines whether autistic individuals can feel safe enough within the work environment to discuss their autism, request accommodations to meet their needs and be their true selves at work
- Predictability – Vital that processes are predictable and autistic candidates and employees have a sense of what to expect
- Communication – Must be adjusted as autistic individuals communicate differently. Clear communication cited as a facilitator to employment retention.
Rise program Digitisation Office
From the start of program in 2017, successful candidates were selected for Records Officer roles in the Records Management Unit.
Records officers are responsible for capturing important information in hardcopy records and files, and documenting this information in a digital database. It’s a role that requires great attention to detail, prolonged focus, and a delicate balance in ensuring work gets done quickly and accurately – strengths that can be found in many people on the autism spectrum.
Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), in March 2020 the Records Management Unit introduced in-bound mail digitisation to support remote working. The current members of the Rise team moved from working in Records Officer roles to working for the Digitisation Office, assisting with mail preparation, scanning, and creating training materials.
Information for candidates
The Rise program and all available roles are focused on people on the autism spectrum.
Rise is a recruitment program that provides people on the autism spectrum sustainable employment options. It was established by the former Victorian Department of Health and Human Services in 2017.
In 2020, the program established a Digitisation Office to assist with scanning documents and mail for different customers across the Victorian Government.
If you are interested in joining a very busy, inclusive team and starting your career in the public service, find out more about the open roles and register your interest. Our recruitment process is non-traditional. It focuses on introducing you to the work at a pace suited to you, and from there we can determine if the role is a good fit for you.
Who we’re looking for
Advertised roles currently relate to the newly established Digitisation Office.
Jobs will centre around preparing internal mail and files for scanning. So the Rise program is looking for members who will be enthusiastic about this vital process for the department.
Roles will require a variety of skills from candidates. Things we will consider include:
- High levels of organisation and time management skills. These will be needed to switch between and complete tasks in a timely fashion.
- An ability to remain calm under pressure, as the work can be fast paced.
- An attention to detail and high levels of concentration, as it’s important that documents are prepared to the highest standard so that they can be digitised without any issues.
- The ability to work independently in preparing mail and files, but also perform as part of a larger team effort.
- Being able to work well with colleagues and take on feedback from managers.
- The willingness to cooperate in accordance to the department’s Occupational Health and Safety guidelines. This will help to keep everyone safe and comfortable in the workplace.
What it’s like working on the Rise Program
People who have been part of a team have positive things to say about the program.
After completing a Bachelor of Communication at university, I found it difficult to obtain even an entry level role largely due to my shyness in interacting with peers and teachers which limited my opportunity to network.
As a result, I had minimal work experience which was also a barrier to finding a job.
I was recruited as a Records Officer in late 2019 as part of the Rise Program pilot which followed a 3-week assessment process. This was before the introduction of the Rise Recruitment and Support Framework which now follows half-day Discovery Days which serve as an introduction to the department, worksite, team and role.
I have since moved from the core Rise Team and digitisation office, having been promoted to a higher duties Quality Assurance Officer role where I am responsible for scanning records for the Department of Education and Training project. As the project grows, I will also take on some people management responsibilities – and already I am a key part of the Discovery Days where I shows candidates what I do, as well as being a part of the assessment process.
Because of my communication studies, I have also been given the opportunity to gain experience in communications-type work, for example, developing sway pages as well as contributing to the development of comms to raise awareness of the Rise Program and new framework.
I am excited to have experienced such career progression but looks forward to further stepping into this role and beyond – as my career goal is to work in an actual communications role one day – although I acknowledge it's as a result of the Rise Program that I have been able to get a foot into the workplace.
I joined the Rise program in August 2019. The managers I had were fantastic in accommodating everyone's individual needs and creating an autism-friendly workplace. They even helped me find a new position in Communicable Disease and assisted me through the process to secure the job, which I think really drives home the point that the Rise program is looking to get autistic individuals into long-term employment.
I first heard about the Rise Program opportunity when my mum undertook some research online to support me in finding a potential job. We’d both separately considered the idea of me looking for a job in a different city as I was experiencing difficulty finding one in Adelaide, so this seemed a perfect opportunity.
Finding a job I felt capable of doing was always the first challenge and I never felt able to do any work experience that most people did when they were younger as it seemed impossible for me to cope with the fast-paced, busy environments and constant customer service without my social anxiety getting in the way.
This made it more difficult to find a job as an adult because I had less work experience to prove myself to employers.
With the Rise Program, I found comfort in knowing that we would be given the opportunity to try out the actual job they were recruiting for and this allowed me to focus on the work rather than trying to prove myself as a person. Throughout the recruitment process, my dad and I stayed in the Melbourne CBD. He also came with me on the first day to ensure I knew where I was going so I didn’t stress about doing this myself. Being in a new environment, surrounded by new people and in a new city was stressful enough; moving to a new city once I was offered the role seemed less stressful than starting a new job.
For the past year, I have been working with mail digitisation and my role has been mostly scanning mail and other files, as well as other tasks. I had always received great feedback from my supervisors and others, which resulted in me being promoted into a VPS-3 Quality Assurance Officer role. I always try to do the best I can with everything I do and I feel I am trusted to take on more responsibility. I’ve been given the opportunity to also start training more people to do the tasks that I have been doing since the start of 2020.
Before the Rise Program, I always felt like I had to focus on the ‘important stuff’, like finding a job before I could focus on my personal hobbies, like creating art. Since I first accepted the role within the Digitisation Office, I have been able to use my free time outside of work to focus on myself and the things I actually want to do. This structure and stability has been beneficial to me as I’m able to make more art. I have also been given an iPad through work which has allowed me to use more of my skills and interests while working, as I can help people with creating images or doing small graphic design tasks.
How we support staff
The department strives to create a pleasant work environment for its employees, and Rise program staff are no exception. Accommodations such as headphones and adjustable lighting are available for staff members with sensory sensitivities, and desks and seating arrangements can be adjusted to make working in the office as comfortable as possible. People in the Rise program are encouraged to approach their managers if they need support so that reasonable adjustments can be made.
Everyone working at the department is expected to be respectful and professional. So it’s important to keep the following things in mind:
- When coming into the office, dressing in business casual clothing is appropriate. This means that while you’re not required to wear a suit and tie (unless you want to!), clothing must be tidy, professional and appropriate for an office environment.
- It’s vital to stay COVID safe in the office. This means following public health advice, maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres from others, consistently washing your hands and sanitising your work area, and wearing a mask in the office (unless you have a lawful reason not to).
(Note: mask wearing advice may change from time to time. It’s important to follow the latest advice on Victoria’s restriction levels.
- There are many standards of office etiquette to follow. These include keeping your language professional (avoid swearing or making any potentially offensive comments) and only using your mobile phone during breaks or lunch (unless there is an emergency).
- Keeping track of time is incredibly important. Make sure you’re at work on time each morning and pay attention to going on breaks for the appropriate length of time.
- Follow the directions of your supervisor. If you’re not sure of something, speak up and ask for clarification. Take on board any feedback given – remember, they want you to succeed too.
Researchers at the Latrobe University Department of Psychology and Counselling and Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre have developed one-page guides on autism and employment.
To find out more, visit the Latrobe University project page on the Latrobe University website.