FREDERICTON -- Oromocto High School student Owen Sprott has some big goals for after he graduates this June: get his drivers’ license, go to college, and continue woodworking.

The 18-year-old has autism, but that hasn’t stopped him from finding work through a New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL) program.

And it’s a working relationship that’s done everyone a lot of good.

Sprott was matched with Kitchen Creations – a Fredericton cabinet maker – who hired Sprott on as a co-op student, despite a little apprehension at first.

“We didn’t quite know what to expect, but it’s been a really pleasant surprise,” said president of the company, Andy Bubar. “When Owen walks in every morning, he’s got this big smile on his face, that just lights up the entire shop. I think the other workers are seeing that and they’re actually, I think, drawing on that. It’s been an extremely positive experience for the whole organization.”

The workshop is where Sprott shines. He moves from station to station – drilling, sanding and sweeping.

“There are lots of nice people, they help me and if I have a question, I can go ask one of them,” he said in an interview with CTV Atlantic.

The NBACL operates a “transition to work” program. Every year, they connect about 260 students who have developmental disabilities with ‘real work for real pay.’

“What we’re seeing is in our province, people with a disability – intellectual or developmental – the unemployment rate is a staggering 75 per cent. And this year alone, our graduates that went through our transition to work program, we have 79 per cent employed,” said NBACL executive director Sarah Wagner.

She says they’re trying to open more minds to consider inclusive hiring.

“We’re seeing our employers seeing the benefits it’s having on moral amongst their staff team, seeing the value that this person brings to the workforce, and also that they can do – very much so – the job of many of the other employees within their field,” she said.

Sprott says he has one other goal he’s reaching for after graduation.

“Since my mother takes care of me now, I want to take care of her, when I’m done,” he said.

He’s hoping to inspire others – and show that “anyone can do anything they want to do.”