Autism, pathways to work, that work

Employ for Ability’s new model of support sees 80% of clients placed into meaningful work. In this model, clients undertake vocational study, part time work and self-development within an individualised holistic framework of support to help them succeed.

In this session, David Smith will discuss why this innovative new approach to disability employment (which involves working with NDIS participants via specialised autism consultants) is seeing fantastic results. With supports in place to manage anxiety and comorbid conditions, participants complete courses, work experience, one-on-one coaching and training to improve confidence, skills and employability.

People on the autism spectrum have many beneficial industry skills. However, in Australia, only 40.8% of autistic adults are employed (ABS, 2015). This is a population of able and willing jobseekers who can excel given the correct knowledge and understanding.


David Smith Managing Director, Employ for Ability, Australia

David Smith is the Managing Director of Employ for Ability and is a neurodiversity employment specialist. He has spent over 30 years in leadership roles in the defence force, professional services and the recruitment sector.

He shows organisations that people with an ASD diagnosis and other neurodiverse conditions are not disabled, but are different (as all people are different) and can provide organisations with a competitive advantage.

David has worked with government and private sector clients, providing education, training and advice to assist the employment of over 130 neurodiverse candidates. He has also presented on ‘the neurodiversity advantage’ at a number of forums in the region. In 2019 David was awarded an Outstanding Alumnus Award from the University of Oxford for his work on neurodiversity employment.

Employ for Ability was created in 2019 and is building a reputation for helping neurodivergent people gain employment. The organisation was the 2022 ACT winner of the Telstra Best of Business Awards in the building communities category.

David is part of a strong network of local community groups, disability employment services (DES) providers and the Canberra Business Chamber. He is also the Chair of the ACT Inclusion Council and a member of the Marymead Autism Advisory Board.

David has post graduate qualifications in autism, organisational development, training and development and has an undergraduate degree in Science from UNSW ADFA. He completed the University of Oxford’s Advanced Management and Leadership Programme in 2016.


Kate Haplin Principal Neurodiversity Consultant, Employ for Ability