IT and autism a great fit

The West Australian - - JOBFINDER - Con­nie Clarke

Young adults liv­ing with autism in WA are ex­pected to fill gaps in WA’s thriv­ing soft­ware-test­ing in­dus­try through Aus­tralia’s first in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy in­tern­ship of its kind.

The new em­ploy­ment scheme matches grad­u­ates to com­pa­nies look­ing for metic­u­lous, fo­cused and at­ten­tive soft­ware testers, and is ex­pected to cre­ate hun­dreds of jobs for peo­ple on the autism spec­trum.

Curtin Univer­sity’s Autism Academy for Soft­ware Qual­ity As­sur­ance (AASQA) and the Aus­tralian Com­puter So­ci­ety de­vel­oped the in­tern­ships to cre­ate a win-win sit­u­a­tion for stu­dents, com­puter-based in­dus­tries and fam­i­lies.

AASQA deputy di­rec­tor, Tele Tan, said its mis­sion was to see young peo­ple, whose in­nate abil­i­ties to be very at­ten­tive and an­a­lyt­i­cal with large amounts of data made them ideal soft­ware and se­cu­rity de­vel­op­ment can­di­dates, gain full-time em­ploy­ment.

“The soft­ware test­ing in­dus­try in Aus­tralia is a $420 mil­lion busi­ness, so there is great scope to pro­vide em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple on the spec­trum,” As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Tan said. “There’s a grow­ing need for an­a­lyt­i­cal data skills. It’s a very sys­tem­atic process which re­quires ac­cu­racy, fo­cus and at­ten­tion to de­tail, so for peo­ple liv­ing with autism, it’s a per­fect em­ploy­ment match.”

There are 153,000 adults of em­ploy­ment age — be­tween 16 and 64 for three months in the com­pany’s en­ter­prise ser­vices divi­sion.

Head of so­lu­tion engi­neer­ing, Sean Lang­ton, said the move was both an ex­ten­sion of the com­pany’s good cor­po­rate cit­i­zen­ship and a very sound busi­ness de­ci­sion. “All the re­search and ev­i­dence tells us that peo­ple on the autism spec­trum are ex­tremely hard-work­ing, fo­cused and loyal. They have a metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to de­tail, but they are un­der-rep­re­sented in the work­force,” Mr Lang­ton said. “We hope other or­gan­i­sa­tions can fol­low our lead. Our three young in­terns Michael, Tim and Ni­cholas are ex­cel­lent work­ers, who are help­ing build sys­tems around two ma­jor busi­ness ar­eas — busi­ness lend­ing and cy­ber se­cu­rity.”

Mr Lang­ton said the autism academy was pro­vid­ing di­rect ac­cess to oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy ex­per­tise at Curtin and was help­ing ed­u­cate Bankwest lead­ers on how to take some of the anx­i­ety out of the in­ter­view process for po­ten­tial young work­ers.

“It’s amaz­ing to learn how many of our work­ers have been touched by autism in some way, and there is con­cern gen­er­ally around the lack of work op­por­tu­ni­ties for them”.

Bankwest in­tern Michael New said he felt wel­come and in­stantly ac­cepted. “It’s my most sin­cere hope that the AASQA and other cor­po­ra­tions will be able to pro­vide a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence to other stu­dents on the autism spec­trum that might oth­er­wise be shunned in an ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive IT world,” he said.

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