The National Autistic Society (NAS) and DXC Technology have announced the launch of a specialist centre to help autistic people in the UK access digital, IT and cyber security careers, and to make employers aware of the value of increasing neurodiversity in the workplace.
According to research from the NAS, just 16% of autistic people are in full-time paid work – and many of them are in jobs below their skill level.
“This is a huge waste of talent at a time when there’s a big skills shortage, particularly in the cyber security industry,” said Emma Kearns, the National Autistic Society’s employment training manager. “Autistic people have so much to give – but employers have to give them a chance.”
Plugging the skills gap with neurodiversity
The UK centre will run from the NAS Enterprise Campus in Essex and will seek to make a lasting change to the career prospects of those with autism, as well as increasing neurodiversity in UK workforces. The team will be developing relationships with universities and employers.
The new cyber security and IT centre will provide opportunities for autistic people to obtain cyber security training and internships. With approximately 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK, this could indeed prove a significant move in plugging the UK’s digital skills shortage.
How diversity can help fight cyber-attacks
However, some go further and argue that neurodiversity brings with it more benefits. Research suggests those with atypical brains can quickly identify clues while sorting through large data sets. When you incorporate neurodiversity into the workforce, you begin to remove cognitive blind spots that have limited your team in the past.
Kearns added: “It’s important to remember every autistic person has different skills, interests and support needs, and that some people aren’t able to work at all. We’re targeting those autistic adults with a real interest in all things digital here, but we’re also looking to introduce employment opportunities for other industries in the coming months and years.”
DXC Dandelion Programme
The centre will leverage the knowledge of the successful DXC Dandelion Programme, which has collaborations globally and is used by some Australian banks and the Australian Department of Defence to attract, recruit, hire and retain people on the spectrum for cyber security roles.
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Michael Fieldhouse, director, Social Impact Practice leader and Dandelion Programme executive at DXC, said: “It is a great honour to be part of creating this cyber security and IT centre focused on assisting autistic people in obtaining training and employment with growing demand industries.
“We will be leveraging our global relationships with Symantec, Splunk and Untapped to assist with training, assessment and on-going support. The centre will also enable employers to understand and learn what is required for sustainable employment for autistic people. This has been a critical mind shift from just thinking about jobs to focusing on careers.”