Companies looking to hire autistic employees
‘Coming up with creative solutions’: Companies looking to hire autistic employees
Large Australian companies such as Telstra and NAB are actively hiring more staff with autism as part of a push for neurodiversity in the workplace.
The neurodiversity programs, also embraced by government departments such as Services Australia and technology companies such as DXC and SAP, typically form part of a broader goal to employ people with disabilities.
The term “neurodiversity” describes a range of conditions that imply a different way of seeing and interacting with the world, including autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Most of the programs in the Australian corporate sector focus on people with autism but acknowledge the autistic individuals may have other neurodivergent conditions as well.
One in 59 people is on the autism spectrum but 32 per cent of working age autistic Australians are unemployed, Australian Bureau of Statistic figures show. This means they are three times more likely to be unemployed than people with other disabilities and almost six times more likely than people without disabilities.
Julie Robertson, the chief executive of social enterprise Specialisterne, said autistic people struggled to find employment because of non-conventional behaviour in interview settings, not because they are less capable.
“Individuals who are autistic and neurodiverse do have a range of highly employable skill sets, it’s just about how businesses perceive those skill sets as talents as opposed to deficits,” Ms Robertson said.
“Big businesses like banks and finance companies and insurance companies and tech companies are taking a real interest in these individuals, because they’re starting to see that they need people who are able to look at problems differently or are able to come up with creative solutions.”
Specialisterne works with clients to design a hiring process suitable for people with autism and to develop programs to support neurodiverse team members once hired.
Telstra group executive for transformation and people, Alex Badenoch, said the company is working with Specialisterne on a pilot program to recruit more people with autism. The telco received 160 applications for eight roles and expected to have the new starters join in April.
Written by: Caitlin Fitzsimmons - senior writer for The Sun-Herald