Inside the Abu Dhabi training centre preparing people with autism for the workplace

Al Karamah Training Institute is equipping students with the skills to thrive in life

A new vocational institute in Abu Dhabi is unlocking the potential of people with autism and helping them find their way in the workplace.

Al Karamah Training Institute equips students with the practical skills needed to bridge the gap between education and a fulfilling career.

Teenagers and young adults at the centre can study a variety of subjects, from electronics, robotics and hydroponics, to hospitality, video production and business administration.

The institute opened in November with 14 students and was inaugurated by Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge in April.

Two members of its first class have already obtained jobs at Mubadala-operated companies Strata Manufacturing and Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre.

Fares Al Mehairi learns how to cut some wire in electronics class at Al Karamah Training Institute. Victor Besa / The National
Fares Al Mehairi learns how to cut some wire in electronics class at Al Karamah Training Institute. Victor Besa / The National

“Students will learn work-related skills so that they can become more independent and move into a job within two or three years," said Lucy Wood, principal at Al Karamah Training Institute.

“We are working with the private and public sectors and have placed two of our young people into employment.

“All children with autism learn, but a lot of it is about the way that they are taught. It is amazing what they can achieve.”

What is autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, encapsulates a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, speech and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviour.

It is not an illness or disease for which there are specific medical treatments or a cure.

As autism is judged on a spectrum, it affects lives in different ways. Some people require little or no support, while others may need help from a parent or carer every day.

The World Health Organisation estimates that one in 270 people globally has some form of autism.

UK experts operate centre

Hamdan and Fares, students at Al Karamah Training Institute, do some leg strengthening exercises. Victor Besa / The National
Hamdan and Fares, students at Al Karamah Training Institute, do some leg strengthening exercises. Victor Besa / The National

The institute is open to Emiratis aged between 15 and 25, is free of charge, and can serve up to 64 students.

The institute is operated by the UK’s Priory Education and Children’s Services, an independent education provider for children with special needs.

Ms Wood said students would gain qualifications to help them in the professional sphere.

They will be taught basic core skills in English and maths, and trained through workshops, alongside a variety of different subjects.

Students will be able to acquire recognised qualifications from UK award bodies, including the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network and the National Open College Network.

Ms Wood said important progress was being made to integrate those with autism into the world of work.

“It’s been wonderful. The industry is working with us,” she said.

Students spend time at the the Sensory Garden, which has a trampoline, at Al Karamah Training Institute. Victor Besa / The National
Students spend time at the the Sensory Garden, which has a trampoline, at Al Karamah Training Institute. Victor Besa / The National

“They are really open to the idea of people of determination coming into the workforce.

“In the UK it's quite difficult to place for a child, but not here. I think that hospitality in Abu Dhabi in fantastic and that hotels are something we’re just stepping into.

“Within a hotel there are many levels of expertise required and many of our young people would be able to work in such a field or do administrative work.”

Autism no barrier to success

Eissa Ali Al Dhaheri, 20, studied at the institute before being recruited by Strata Manufacturing, Mubadala Investment Company’s aerospace manufacturing unit.

Mr Al Dhaheri is on a mission to show the world that people with autism can achieve anything they want.

“Having autism does not stop you pursuing your dreams or achieving what you want to achieve," he said.

“I would like to show the world that people with autism can make a difference.

"We have the potential, talent and skills, just like everybody else.”

Worker supports Covid-19 fight

Mr Al Dhaheri is involved in the process of making N95 masks at Strata’s Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park.

Though he initially dreamt of being a police officer or serving in the military, he was happy when he got the job with Strata.

“I was happy and excited when I got the job. I am proud to work for one of the leading aerospace manufacturing companies," he said.

“I really enjoy my job and working with my colleagues. I like working as a team."

Ismail Ali Abdulla, chief executive of Strata Manufacturing, said limits should not be placed on any potential worker.

"Eissa joined our facility in Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park as technician for the N95 mask production line and since joining has become a key member of our team," he said.

"I believe that with the right tools and access to training and mentorship opportunities, anyone can realise their potential.

“Eissa’s dedication is a testament to his drive; his story and persistence to live independently brings new perspective of dedication that our teams can learn from."

Updated: May 27, 2021 03:25 PM

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