Woolworths has kicked off a six-month “pilot program” employing five autistic technology consultants to work across several quality assurance and software delivery projects.
The program is enabled through a partnership with auticon, which has been in Australia since November last year, and coincides with World Autism Awareness Month.
Chief information officer John Hunt told iTnews the pilot would be run with five consultants.
“Working alongside our existing technology quality assurance team members, we are pleased to have five auticon consultants working on various projects helping with solutions in areas such as test automation and large data set validation,” Hunt said.
In a statement, Hunt said Woolworths - as Australia’s largest employer - played an “important role in creating opportunities for people, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
“If Australia is to address the STEM shortage, we need to embrace diversity in all its forms,” Hunt said.
“Many autistic individuals are hugely talented in STEM fields, so this presents an opportunity for us.
“We are keen to explore ways in which we can work with companies like auticon to create an autism friendly workplace and benefit from a larger pool of talented STEM skilled IT professionals.
“In this context, with auticon’s help, we are aiming to provide a work environment that will support the empowerment of people on the spectrum.”
auticon Australia’s managing director, Amanda Turnill said that despite being highly qualified, “people on the spectrum in Australia still struggle to hold down full-time work.”
“We aim to change this and the program with Woolworths is a wonderful start,” she said.
auticon embeds a “job coach” in participating companies that helps consultants integrate and the company to benefit from their skills.
A similar program, DXC Technology’s Dandelion, took out the diversity category in the iTnews Benchmark Awards this year.
Dandelion has seen the direct employment of 100-plus people on the autism spectrum directly with DXC, along with others at third parties such as NAB, which runs its own neurodiversity at work program.