DXC Technology, a leading independent end-to-end IT services company, is promoting neurodiversity in the workplace through a specialist centre which is being developed to help autistic people in the UK pursue digital, IT and cybersecurity careers through supported internships with leading employers in the industry.
The centre, which will be run by the National Autistic Society, is based on a successful employment model (the DXC Dandelion Programme) introduced in Australia by DXC Technology and Untapped Group, the strategic partner managing the attraction, sourcing and supporting of neurodiverse talent. The National Autistic Society is looking to build partnerships with employers in cybersecurity, with a view to opening the centre in Autumn 2019.
The programme will be run from the charity’s Enterprise Campus in Essex, which also houses a specialist school for children on the autism spectrum, an assessment and diagnostic service and, in the near future, a variety of training and employment projects. The new cybersecurity and IT centre will provide opportunities for autistic people to obtain cybersecurity training and internships. 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 cybersecurity roles.
The National Autistic Society is working with DXC and Untapped Group to adapt the DXC Dandelion Programme model for the UK. Established in 2013, the Dandelion Programme employs over 100 people in Australia and is the basis for leading research on autism in the workplace. Over 290 organisations across 77 countries have downloaded the Dandelion Programme materials which are open sourced globally via Cornell University.
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 cybersecurity and IT centre focused on assisting autistic people in obtaining training and employment with growing demand industries.
“DXC already leverages the talents of autistic people in cybersecurity for the Australian government’s Department of Defence and for banks. The partnership enables us to bring knowledge from the DXC Dandelion Programme to scale, thus increasing the social impact to organisations in the United Kingdom.
“We will be leveraging our global relationships with Symantec, Splunk and Untapped to assist with training, assessment and ongoing 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.”
Emma Kearns, the National Autistic Society’s Employment Training Manager, said: “A growing number of employers are recognising autistic people’s potential.
“Yet our charity’s research shows 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 cybersecurity industry.
“We’re committed to changing this through campaigning and working with organisations such as DXC Technology and the Untapped Group to develop opportunities like this new programme. It is based on a tried and tested model in Australia so we’re really excited to get working on introducing it in England and to develop relationships with universities and employers in the cybersecurity industry.
“The key thing for us is that we’re not just preparing the autistic candidates for work, we’re also working with employers to make sure they understand autism and introduce the right support and adjustments.
“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.
“Autistic people have so much to give – but employers have to give them a chance.”