Workplace inclusion is possible – just ask ASA

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

The idea of a data analytics business almost exclusively employing neurologically diverse people may seem impossible, but that is simply not true.

The Brisbane-based business, Australian Spatial Analytics (ASA) is forging a new path for diversity and inclusion.

Samantha Garbutt, the Operations Manager of ASA explained that they are “a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to training and employing young data analysts with autism in the field of data analytics.”

If you haven’t heard of ASA before, you may have heard of their parent group White Box Enterprises.

White Box Enterprises help other social enterprises that aim to support overlooked, marginalised, and underserved people.

Back in 2020, White Box Enterprises realised that employment within spatial sciences was rising and that this offered a unique opportunity for those that are neurologically diverse.

“We realised that data analytics and spatial sciences appeal to the strengths of those with a strong memory retention, pattern recognition, and focus,” Samantha said.

Research suggests that young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be up to 40% faster at tasks requiring visual problem solving and pattern detection skills.

Regrettably, only 15% of working-age adults with ASD are in full-time paid employment — even though they are fast and accurate at analysing information.

“That’s why at ASA, we employ specifically young adults on the autism spectrum and those with other neurodiverse conditions who have a keen interest in technology and data sciences,” said Samantha.

“We harness their unique skills by training them to assess spatial information.”

Samantha explained there is a significant number of young adults with autism locked out of the workforce due to recruitment processes.

“They’re willing to work, but often they just struggle when it comes to typical HR recruitment practices,” she said.

People with autism can have different methods for communicating or processing information than their competing neurotypical candidates. Both these divergences can disadvantage their performance in traditional interview settings and stop them from performing their best.

ASA has worked hard to combat this.

After recognising this barrier to candidates coming through, ASA created a more inclusive and accessible path to employment.

ASA recruitment process in five simple steps:

ASA hiring steps - image of steps going up
Step 1. Connect with EPIC - EPIC Assist helps us find the right person for the role. Step 2. Review CV – We look to see if they are interested and aptitude for technology. Step 3. Computer activity – We are looking at attention, pattern recognition and enjoyment. Step 4. Written online questionnaire – Many candidates struggle verbally but are exceptional at expressing themselves in written form Step 5. Interview – We make sure to provide all interview question 48 hours in advance.
ASA’s five easy hiring steps to recruiting people on the autism spectrum.

To start off, they connect with disability employment services providers, like EPIC Assist (EPIC), who are experts in employing people with disability.

For many employers, the unknown task of hiring someone with a disability can be overwhelming. That is where EPIC comes in.

In 2020, ASA connected with EPIC and the team at Strathpine to help them hire job-ready, quality candidates with autism. Since then, EPIC has helped ASA hire more than six people into sustainable, gainful employment.

“What is key here is having someone who can understand our needs, who gets who were looking for, and can be that point of contact,” Samantha said.

“That’s what EPIC continues to be for us.”

The main point of contact between EPIC and ASA is our employment consultant Seath Holswich.

“It’s great to connect with people like Seath who understand who we’re looking for,” Samantha said.

“Seath got in touch via LinkedIn. And what impressed me was his professionalism and how promptly you responded.”

“There is a host of disability employment specialist providers out there and what is key is in the times when we’re recruiting.”

As many people with autism are locked out of employment, instead of looking for similar past experiences in CVs, ASA pays attention to transferable skills and hobbies, such as gaming, that may signal an aptitude in technology.

From this point on is where ASA’s recruitment procedure really diverges from the typical process. They’re committed to finding the right person for the right role—not the person who interviews best—and this philosophy is engrained in everything they do.

“We found that many candidates don’t thrive in interviews, but they are exceptional at showcasing their talent through practical activities and expressing themselves in written form.

“So, we provide a computer activity that looks at things like focus and pattern recognition just to give us a bit of an indication that they would enjoy the work and it appeals to their strengths.

“This is followed by an online questionnaire. Their responses enable us to get to know them and confirm their genuine interest in working in a tech-focused role. If they pass these stages, we then provide questions for an interview 48 hours in advance’

This gives candidates time to understand and decode the questions in a way that makes sense to them as a unique neurodivergent individual.

Samantha explained how when it comes to the interview stage, the main thing they’re looking for is whether the candidate genuinely wants to work here.

“Every one of the individuals we have employed is because they want to work here,” she said.

“You can’t teach a good attitude.”

Harrison siting in front of his desk at Australian Spatial Analytics.
Harrison is one of the newest junior data analysts EPIC has helped secure employment for at Australian Spatial Analytics.

Take Harrison, for example.

Harrison is one of the newest junior data analysts EPIC has helped secure employment for at ASA.

“I’ve been looking for work for some time, and finally got this job which has been lovely,” he said.

“It’s data analysis quite literally.”

“It’s going through and matching up the information and trying to get that mapped into the new software we’re upgrading everything to.”

Harrison is a self-declared “Dungeon Master” who loves playing various roleplaying games.

But despite his love for these games, he was tired of rolling the dice when trying to find a suitable job.

“My life has finally started to stabilise since I started working here,” he said.

“I haven’t been stable for almost three years. And this is starting to get me there.

“I’ve been able to do such things as afford a haircut, which has been nice.”

Louis siting in front of his desk at Australian Spatial Analytics.
Louis came to EPIC after hearing they help people with autism.

For others like Louis, the best part of the job is learning and developing new skills and knowledge.

“I now know a whole lot more about the electrical grid that I didn’t know anything about before,” Louis said.

Louis, who enjoys everything to do with video games and cats, came to EPIC after hearing they help people with autism.

Through our partnership with ASA, we were able to support Louis during his interview process and secure his position as a Spatial Data Analyst.

Harrison siting in front of his desk at Australian Spatial Analytics. Louis standing behind him. Both are smiling at the camera
Harrison and Louis working at Australian Spatial Analytics.

“Louis did very well through his recruitment in terms of technical ability and understanding,” Samantha said.

“We saw that Louis previously worked in retail, which indicated that even with his diagnosis and tendencies at times to feel uncomfortable in a social setting, he is willing to put himself out there.”

“EPIC has been a great point of contact through the recruitment and after in providing support to our analyst.”

Finding a job isn’t the end of the employment journey. Here at EPIC, we continue to provide ongoing support to both employees and employers wherever we can.

“I like how our new employees receive regular calls and check-ups with EPIC. It provides helpful feedback from someone outside the organisation,” Samantha said.

“It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to ensure that we’ve got a well-rounded support network for each and every employee.

“Connecting with EPIC is one great step towards doing that.”

Samantha had one final thought to share with any employer considering hiring people with disability.

“Doing this, I am certain you will achieve amazing results and growth, because the talent you need is in places you don’t expect.”

If your business is looking for long-term and passionate staff members to join your team, get in touch with EPIC Assist today.

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