Sunday, December 16, 2007

Something to blog about

At last there is something worthy for me to blog about.

I read this on a BBC site about the new educational diploma, something I am set against because of the way it will further disadvantage autistic people.

It is not hard to see why when you read statements like this.

"The head of the Enterprise Business Unit at Vodafone, Kyle Whitehill, probably spoke for many employers when he told a conference that "the two most important skills in the workplace are interpersonal skills and presentational skills".
He did not, please note, prioritise acquisition of academic knowledge or evidence of the ability to memorise large slabs of information. "

Now what I find particularly ironic, is the fact that Vodafone was until recently a major funding partner with the National Autistic Society. And that funding was essential in developing the campaigning services and preserving the prospects service.

In the light of the statement I have just repeated it almost seems like "blood money" or a salving of conscience.

Well to be fair I have to be critical of the NAS too in so far as a service like Prospects goes. Prospects has like Autism West Midlands Aspire and many other local job preparation services, suffered from a major flaw.

That is that these services (and I think it goes for other disabilities than autism too so I am not being picky) attempt to adapt the square peg to the round hole. They are not predicated on the social model of disability in which it is the attitudes of companies like Vodafone, that create the disabilities.

Returning to Mr Whitehill's statement. I do not disagree that there are some areas of employment where presentation and social skills are important, but not in all of them. Vodafone may be a company who promote an image that they are about communication, but behind that communication is a lot of technology. Where would the company be without surly engineers? Indeed where would the 21st century be if clean teeth and a broad smile were more important than technical competence. Golgafrincham perhaps?

I have witnessed over the years the way the society I live in is exacerbating the disability of Autism and all the other neuro diversities such as Tourettes and Dyslexia.

We are in for hard times, because whatever you do, you cannot expect a race horse to pull a brewers dray, you have to lighten the load, to adapt.

In a time when there will be a skills shortage Vodafone, by adopting attitudes like that are shooting themselves in the foot.

Peter Hain an erstwhile champion of seemingly impossible causes in my youth has now become an ossified mainstream politician complaining about workshy disabled people who have the capacity to work, but don't.

Well we autistics are well down in the league table of employment, and isn't it obvious why? It is not us but industry that needs to adapt, or return to good old fashioned common sense.

So as my contribution to most recent NAS campaign "Think differently about Autism" I am offering a challenge to Mr Whitehill if he is reading this. Are you prepared to meet with me and discuss this further? It is a challenge I mean to keep. And the word of this "Aspie" is his bond because I will be following this up.

Ps. for the record I am with Orange these days (not that I expect they are much different when it comes to their human relations department)


shiva said...

Oh bloody hell. One more step down the road that the UK education system (primary, secondary and tertiary) is already far too far down - towards the point of education being to turn out "productive" (ie money making) workers for the corporations, rather than valuing knowledge and understanding as an end in itself.

I can't get funding to do an MA because the only "synergy" i am interested in is that between academia and grass roots politics, and "business" doesn't come into it. Even postgraduate courses seem now to be primarily for the purpose of getting a better-paying job afterwards rather than that of advancing human knowledge - and, of course, it's those of us who, whether because of neurodiversity, physical impairment or any other difference from the norm (whose norm? that of the architects of the 19th century industrial revolution, mostly), don't fit into that money-centric "productive" employment system, who get left behind, with real contributions to make to human knowledge but no means of funding ourselves to make them.

I tried Aspire for their employment-finding services - and gave up on them because every other client was, and therefore they assumed every autistic person to be, a middle-class mummy's boy with no real *need* of employment, and because the woman running it was the most uber-neurotypical, emotional affect and body language focused, talking to me like a child and prioritising "being nice" over honesty - in other words, completely useless to anyone with an Aspie communication style - that could be imagined.

It does make me wonder if it would be possible to challenge employers requiring "interpersonal skills" and similar (for jobs where they're not actually a central part of the job) under the DDA...

Patrick said...

This was a good thing to bring up, they seem to have missed out on such trivial matters as accuracy and honesty in the workplace.

Sooo I suppose the ledger can be amiss but interpersonal skills and presentational skills will keep the place afloat eh?