New Program Introduces Autistic Adults to IT Jobs

Several IT jobs focus on the strengths of many individuals on the autism spectrum.

Throughout the years, adults with autism have faced many difficulties in trying to attain an employed position, as employers often focused on the individual’s perceived limitations, as opposed to the unique attributes they could offer the company. Fortunately, many companies are beginning to realize the value that adults on the spectrum can offer, as they can be very focused in a certain subject or task, making them highly productive, and incredible assets to various businesses. Furthermore, many programs are being developed and implemented to help autistic teens and adults gain more experience and perspective as an employee, helping them transition into working roles.

In Calgary, a pilot project has been developed to help individuals on the autism spectrum utilize their strengths in information technology (IT). Many individuals with ASD have shown a strong interest in information technology, with strengths in working with numbers and analyzing data. The new project focuses on training individuals and helping them find jobs in quality assurance and data verification. The project is funded by the federal government, which allocated $150,000 to Meticulon, a non-profit autism organization in Calgary, and the Sinneave Family Foundation.

Tom Collins, president of the Sinneave Foundation, aims to increase the number of individuals on the spectrum in the workforce. He states, “At the moment, only about 20 percent of individuals who have [ASD] are employed. We think in the next 10 years we can double that number.” He continues, “We look for people who are comfortable with repetitive types of tasks, who have a real attention for detail, individuals who are comfortable doing the same thing and being very precise about it.” Many individuals on the autism spectrum enjoy focusing on one particular subject, and become comfortable following a rigid routine; therefore they are often best suited for a job that will not branch off into too many tasks. If an employer focuses on allowing the individual to work in a task that they feel comfortable, they will be able to work efficiently and with great dedication.

Mobility Quotient, a software company which produces apps such as JustWine (for wine enthusiasts) recently hired one of the Meticulon students. This individual now enters data at wine-tasting events. Although this may be a tedious task for some, the employee enjoys focusing on their task, and does an exceptional job at it. CEO Nikhil Sonpal states, “She doesn’t travel. She’s uncomfortable travelling, but she says she goes on a vacation every time she goes to work, because she can look at these different places that she would never go to that have these wine events.” He continues, “She’s excited every time she comes to work. I don’t believe in labels. Words don’t matter to me. It’s results.”

The pilot project lasts for the duration of one year, and has seen great success thus far. The Western Economic Diversification Office predicts that Canadian employers will need to hire over 106,000 IT workers within the next two years, creating a new recruitment challenge for businesses, but an incredible opportunity for many on the spectrum.

One of ICare4Autism’s largest goals is promoting autism in the workforce through Global Autism Workforce Initiatives.  ICare4Autism fully supports programs such as this one, as it enables individuals on the spectrum to gain various opportunities to potentially gain employment, as well as eases the transition into employed roles.

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