Workers with autism recognised for unique skill set, ANZ recruiting nine new employees
Joshua is on the autism spectrum, and his father is part of a growing movement to help people with autism find employment that they will excel in.
Mr Ormiston is the director of the ANZ Spectrum Program, and the bank is currently hiring its inaugural intake of employees on the spectrum.
“That won’t only just help my children, but will help other people’s children who are also going to face into those same sort of challenges that I expect Josh will as he comes into that place of working life,” Mr Ormiston said.
“It really starts to put you in a position after 20 odd years of working around the world in technology, to say here’s something that I can really leave a legacy.”
Currently in Australia only around 40 per cent of adults on the autism spectrum are employed.
Those who do find employment are often working in jobs below their educational or professional level.
But that could be beginning to change.
Cyber security a good fit for autistic people
ANZ has become the latest major company to deliberately recruit people with autism.
Nine new employees are due to begin work early next year: four in cyber-security roles, five as test analysts.
The banking group insists the initiative is not driven simply by a “feel-good factor”.
“There’s a real untapped pool of potential here in the autistic community,” Mr Ormiston said.
Autism researcher Professor Cheryl Dissanayake from La Trobe University said cyber security in particular was increasingly recognised as “a very good fit” for many people with autism.
“The attention to detail, the looking for information, for detailed information, for variations in code, is critical,” she said.
“And many people with autism have very good skills to bring into that.”
While the ANZ program is starting out with an intake of just nine employees, it is hoped it will expand significantly.
“We’re really looking to be able to dream much bigger, and look at opportunities right across the ANZ,” Mr Ormiston said.
Small boy inspired workplace program
The ANZ program is modelled on a similar initiative which has been running for several years at DXC Technology, formerly Hewlett Packard.
It is the brainchild of executive Michael Fieldhouse who said he had an “epiphany” one evening while watching a friend’s son, who has autism, throw pebbles into an urn at a dinner party, an action that initially frustrated him.
By eventually timing him Mr Fieldhouse realised that the boy was dropping the pebbles at exact intervals.
“He did that for a bit over two hours,” Mr Fieldhouse said.
“I learnt that night that talent actually comes in all shapes and sizes.
“I saw raw talent not being utilised.”
“I felt like I could not perform at all”
Twenty-four-year-old Martin Ribot de Bressac is one of the employees on the DXC program.
Before being hired by DXC, he struggled to find full-time work.
“A big barrier that I find is the interview process and being able to connect with the other side of the interview,” Mr de Bressac said.
“It’s very anxiety-ridden talking to someone that I’ve never met before, I felt like I could not perform at all.”
Starting out in his new job in automation was not plain-sailing either.
“I was having self-esteem issues thinking I’m not really doing a good job and not really saying the right thing, and everyone at work is judging me because of my anxiety and because of my Asperger’s,” Mr de Bressac said.
Almost two years on his confidence has grown enormously — in fact, he is thriving.
“I find that when I’m given a task that I can just demolish it way, way quicker than a lot of my peers,” he said.
“I’ll hack into a piece of software, completely understand the deep roots of it and then build something out of it I get to the point where I can do crazy things with technology.”
Co-worker Kayne Weir, 20, has also been with DXC Technology overseeing IT systems for close to two years.
He too still struggles with the social aspects of the workplace, but said he and his family are “ecstatic” that he has employment.
“It’s good money, it’s good work,” he said.
“I’m happy is what they see.”