When people with autism finish school and try to find work, it can be difficult. The rate of unemployment among college graduates on the spectrum is much higher than the national average. One IT company has made it its mission to have an almost entirely autistic staff, and they’re about to expand further into the United States with a new regional headquarters in Ohio.
Auticon is an IT consulting firm that first launched in Germany in 2011. It now has offices in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other areas throughout Europe. Its website says that of its more than 300 employees, about 200 are on the spectrum.
The website also shares the benefits of having IT consultants with autism, saying, “Our hybrid onsite and offsite teams utilize the cognitive benefits of autism to provide the sustained concentration and analytical mindset that makes us wired for success. We serve our clients by recruiting, training, and employing adults on the autism spectrum for lifelong careers in technology.”
The company notes that though many have higher education or experience in computer sciences, math, and IT, they’ve struggled to adapt to the traditional office setting. This can be due to issues understanding non-verbal signals, discomfort with eye contact, and an aversion to small talk.
In 2019, auticon was given state tax incentives to hire 50 people in Columbus, Ohio. The rollout was slowed by the pandemic, but they’re back on the hiring train. The new IT consultants will work remotely with Ohio businesses in need of assistance with business analytics, artificial intelligence, and software development and migration.
Kenny McDonald, who serves as President and CEO of economic development agency One Columbus, says, “We’re excited to collaborate with auticon on diversifying our thriving local workforce. Employing talented individuals on the autism spectrum will help accomplish One Columbus’ vision by targeting an underserved and often underemployed segment of our community.”
Among those who have found employment with auticon are Will Collett. He had a pretty varied work background before being hired there, including time as a vacuum cleaner salesman, a carpet cleaner for the National Park Service, and an amusement park employee.
He ultimately came across a training program for auticon, and now he works there as a QA analyst, helping businesses find bugs in software and on websites. Working from home has been a great environment for him.
He explains, “A lot of us are a lot more introverted. There’s always a certain point when I’m like, OK, I’m done hanging out with people. I’m going to go sit over here on my phone. I’m still having a great time, but I’m just kind of like done associating with people. And what I feel is really helpful for work from home, is that we can do just that. We can do our work. We can focus on our work. And then when we need to talk to somebody — OK, let’s open up a Zoom call. Let’s open up a mic chat.”
About 35% of high school graduates with autism go on to college. However, in 2019, it was estimated that 85% of college graduates with autism were unemployed. At the time, the national average was 4.5%. Auticon says this doesn’t have to be the case, if companies recognize how to integrate employees with autism into their teams.
For auticon, job coaches have been essential for this. They work with employees to make sure their needs are met, especially those arising from remote work, while they also reach out to clients.
The company’s U.S. CEO David Aspinall explains, “Our job coaches work directly with our clients, they educate our clients to the unique needs of our analysts. Even things like eye contact and not to expect certain things. And then equally important, the job coach will then work with the analysts and make sure that the analysts understand the client expectations within that engagement. It really is important and it’s the secret sauce that has made us so successful.
“What we’re proving here, both pre, and during, and then post-COVID, is that neurodiversity in the workplace offers clear business benefits.”
To learn more about auticon, check out their website.Whizzco