IT and autism a great fit
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.