Improving transition to work
Veerhoff started his career as a PE teacher in special education, but later became an educational specialist and discovered something striking about the transition to work: "We actually know quite a lot about the transitions we go through in our careers. Those from education to education, but also from education to work. Yet we don't do much with that, although that is changing. However, when we talk about those transitions for people with autism, almost nothing is known. That's a problem."
The numbers don't lie, although it is often countered with the fact that some of this group does find work. According to Veerhoff, that is half the story: "We are talking about suitable work in this case. What we normally talk about is having work, and that is that 20-50%, but that says nothing about the sustainability of this work over time. If you really want to look at the sustainability of a career, you have to look more broadly: does the work fit your level of education, but also what motivates you or, for example, does it allow you to live the life you want? You take the first steps of that career in the final phase of your studies and therefore mapping out the study-work transition is the first step towards a solution."
Originally Veerhoff wanted his research to delve into the tradition for the regular target group, but a number of things came together that caused a switch: "As an educational specialist, I had developed the Career Fitness Journey in Venlo to help students in that transition to work. That created a connection with Career Jumpstart, the support platform for the study-work transition of Fontys and TU/e." With the Career Fitness Journey, Veerhoff even won prizes at the Merit Summit in Barcelona, but it was also the start of his project: "At Career Jumpstart, they were working precisely on the target group with autism. So at the last minute I didn't hand in my research proposal, and completely rewrote it. And now we are in full swing!"
To map the transition to work for this target group, Veerhoff is looking for students in their final year with a diagnosis of autism. For this, he is also very active on social media, especially in Facebook groups and on LinkedIn: "I notice that there is a high favour factor for this project, many people I come into contact with emphasise the struggle in the transition to work and want to help. That says a lot about the value of this project." Through questionnaires, he plans to follow them through this transition to identify bottlenecks and challenges: "We want to reach people far beyond our own institute. Finding solutions helps every institute in higher education. So visibility among students at other institutes and universities is badly needed!"