Nine people on the autism spectrum have secured IT jobs with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in Brisbane through a new initiative called the Federal Talent Hub program.
Developed by Specialisterne Australia and supported by EPIC Assist, the program is designed to increase diversity and inclusion within ATO’s workforce. With the successful pilot program now complete in Brisbane, ATO’s Canberra office is set to follow suit.
Selecting nine successful candidates from a field of 74 applicants took around six weeks, with participants put through their paces at every turn.
The non-traditional interview and assessment process was deliberately designed to allow candidates to showcase their skills and abilities in a number of different ways. At one point, participants were tasked with building and programming a LEGO Mindstorms robot.
Peter Middleton was successful in scoring one of the roles, and says the experience has provided him with much more than an exciting new career.
“I was diagnosed with autism later in life, at age 44, and found participating in the program to be both monumentally challenging and extremely rewarding,” says Peter.
“I came even further on my journey of acceptance of my diagnosis, and also found my ‘tribe’ and a place where I could ‘just be’.”
Peter says programs like these are so important for people with autism, many of who struggle in a workplace setting.
“I’ve struggled my whole life to find and keep employment. I had essentially given up [looking for a job], because success at work always seemed to be an insurmountable challenge,” says Peter.
“But securing a job through this program means my employer is prepared for my differences, but they don’t see my differences as being a bad thing. They are also willing to work with me to resolve any potential obstacles.
“It’s such a relief to have the fact that I’m different out in the open. It feels like the playing field is finally level, and this is the first time I’ve felt valued,” he adds.
EPIC Assist CEO Bill Gamack commended the ATO and Specialisterne for driving diversity and showing leadership in this space.
“We’re proud to work with organisations that are supporting people on the autism spectrum to build the career they want and deserve,” says Bill.
“This program reinforces what’s possible when people with disability are given the opportunity to show what they’re capable of.”
Bill is hopeful that other employers are inspired to follow ATO’s lead and implement similar initiatives in their workplaces.
“ATO have shown what’s possible when disability is viewed not as a deficit, but as a difference. Because difference can be very valuable in a business environment,” says Bill.
“There’s not one way of doing things, and the sooner we recognise the potential of unique perspectives in a workplace, the better off we’ll all be.”