Rolls-Royce has embarked on a nationwide search for neurodiverse students at UK universities.
The global industrial technology firm stated that employers needed to better recognise the huge value that neurodiverse graduates bring to the workplace and so has sponsored a new category in the annual Undergraduate of the Year Awards, run by graduate recruitment specialists targetjobs.
It is the first award in the UK that fully recognises the achievements of neurodiverse university students.
Rolls-Royce said it was looking for “inspiring” students who had autism (ASD), ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia as part of a drive to celebrate these students’ strengths in analysis, complex problem-solving, design and strategic thinking.
The winner will be awarded a 10-week paid summer internship, a day shadowing a Rolls-Royce leader and an Apple watch.
It is widely accepted that one in seven people have conditions that are linked with neurodiversity. The condition implies that the brain processes and learns information in a different way from someone who is “neurotypical”.
This prevents some people from being able to find the jobs they want with statistics published in 2017 showing just 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment in the UK.
Ellie Long, early careers business partner at Rolls-Royce, said: “It is an exciting time for people like me who are neurodiverse. We’ve been challenged in education and the world of work for many years and now the world needs people who can think differently, bringing a unique set of skills.
“As Elon Musk, Emma Watson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Simone Biles and many others have shown, neurodiverse people experience and approach things in a very different way because of their hard wiring or developmental challenges.
“They approach tasks and problems from new angles, offer more balanced views and apply their strengths and attributes to their role differently. We’ve got to stop thinking about ‘them’ and ‘us’ when it comes to neurodiversity – we need to recognise and celebrate neurodiversity for the wonderful opportunities it presents to us in the workplace and for society at large.”
Rebecca Green, co-chair of Rolls-Royce’s UK Abilities Network OPEN and global employer brand lead said:“We all think and operate differently. The particular challenges neuro-cognitive and developmental conditions such as ADHD, autism and dyslexia bring are difficult to understand and manage, and are therefore too often overlooked.
Green, who herself has been diagnosed with ADHD, added: “For what people with neurodiverse traits and preferences ‘lack’ against traditional work norms, we excel at in areas critical to businesses in 2021, such as data, innovation, agility, strategy and change. Understanding the value of and actively developing all human cognitive traits is an opportunity for everyone to thrive at work.”
The award comes after a survey carried out last year found that half of UK businesses were reluctant to employ those who were neurodiverse. The study, by the Institute of Leadership & Management, showed there was a significant lack of understanding and awareness of neurodiversity among UK employers.
R2 Data Labs, Rolls-Royce’s data innovation catalyst, is sponsoring the award. It uses emerging tech, such as artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics, to reimagine how businesses run their operations.
“We know that the impact of Covid-19 on students across the UK has been profound, and this is particularly the case for disadvantaged and underrepresented students,” Long said.
“We want to increase the diversity in our teams and build deeper relationships with under-represented groups so that we have the diverse engineering talent we need for the future.”
Students can enter the award from early October through the Undergraduate of the Year Awards website. The deadline is 31 January 2022. There will be 60 students shortlisted and a winner will be chosen at an awards ceremony on 29 April 2022.