Venture builder Startup Brunei are looking to train autistic youth above 16-years-old for employment and entrepreneurship through a six months vocational and internship programme called UnikLearn which includes managing a pop-up ice-cream stall.
The project is seeking its first 10 participants to join the pilot programme starting this April, which will see them first undergoing a professional assessment, followed by workplace and interpersonal skills training for three months and gaining the experience of running a business through operating an ice-cream stall over four months.
Special education startup Spark Lifeskill will be the main facilitator of the training, with charitable organization An-Nur Harapan and Progresif as supporting partners. Kingston Beverage & Creamy is also working with UnikLearn to produce a custom line of premium ice cream called the Unikkone, sold through a pop-up store at Progresif’s headquarters and later through cafes and its own dedicated truck.
“After the programme there will be job placements for the trainees, which we are currently in the process of securing,” said UnikLearn’s project head Rasyidah Samah in a press conference earlier today at the Design and Technology Building. “We are hoping that UnikLearn will be a pioneering social enterprise that will directly enable more differently-abled youth to be employable and able to operate independently within society.”
To sustain the project which requires professional therapists, UnikLearn will cost trainees $800 a month. The training component of the programme will be conducted four times a week, in three-hour sessions at Spark Lifeskill’s centre in Kg Jangsak, with an emphasis on improving interpersonal and situational skills.
“Autistic individuals are unique and highly skilled but face challenges when trying to secure employment,” added Rasyidah.
“They have differences in communication styles and because of that they find it difficult to talk during work settings or interviews. Furthermore, they also might have difficulty in interpreting social cues which makes it hard for them to understand other people.”
With 9,000 Bruneians diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Sultanate, founder of Spark Lifeskill McCoy Chin said that it was critical that assistance is rendered to all age groups, while being focused on training and empowering these individuals with the ability to provide and be independent.
“The trainee will be taught people to people skills, how to handle the (business’) equipment as well as business concepts,” said McCoy. “On a more behavioural level, we also identify the skills of each trainee and then customize the training according to their capabilities. They will learn how to manage emotions during stressful (situations) and how to adjust and handle themselves better during workplace settings.”
He added that the trainees will also get to experience different job roles, allowing them to identify their strengths and capabilities in the workplace.