Progress in bridging the employment gap for neurodivergent Australians is set to accelerate with the announcement of catalytic funding to enable more training and support for neurodivergent people into the workforce.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation has today announced a grant of $1.8m over three years for employment inclusion organisation Xceptional, which will help more neurodivergent people to secure meaningful employment and empower employers to create thriving, diverse teams.  

Xceptional supports neurodivergent people, 85% of whom identify as autistic, to secure good jobs with strong career options.

The funding will enable Xceptional to grow its newly established training academy and is expected to unlock a further 120 training pathways per year, while more than doubling the number of job placements made each month. The grant will also support Xceptional to increase its footprint across Australia.

PRF’s head of Employment Josephine Khalil said the Foundation was proud to support Xceptional in its work both promoting workplace diversity and addressing skill shortages.

“We know that employment is critical to preventing or breaking cycles of disadvantage, but inequities in our social, educational and employment systems can make it hard for neurodivergent people to get the opportunities they deserve,” she said.

“We share Xceptional’s vision for a workforce that recognizes and appreciates the unique abilities of neurodivergent employees. We’re delighted to support Xceptional as they create a recruitment pipeline of neurodivergent people that will benefit individuals, families, communities and employers.”

Xceptional Chief Executive Officer Kurt McLachlan said the grant was a catalytic investment that would significantly boost the organisation’s ability to address key skills shortages and link more employers with highly skilled neurodivergent job candidates.

“Employers in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors are increasingly realising the immense potential and unique talents that neurodivergent individuals possess,” he said. “A common frustration for us is that we have more employment partners with jobs than we have job-ready candidates for, but we know there’s so much talent out there which is still untapped.

“Up to 40 per cent of neurodiverse people are unemployed, and when you include those who are underemployed, the proportion increases to 65 per cent. The hiring process itself is a huge factor is preventing many neurodiverse people from gaining employment.

“We’re able to position candidates in a way that breaks this barrier and enables employers to hire talented candidates they would never have met otherwise. We’re proud that a number of our candidates are succeeding in roles within the NSW government, for example, and look forward to building our partnerships with governments, businesses and other organisations to bridge the employment gap and create a more inclusive workforce.”