auticon and Foodstuffs North Island have come together to improve business outcomes and change the prospects of people on the autism spectrum. Using the power of neurodiversity to strengthen team output, grow diverse thinking and broaden talent opportunities, the partnership will work to deliver superior results and create meaningful work opportunities.
With New Zealand’s growing tech sector and the global STEM skills shortage it is becoming increasingly difficult to fill roles to service the basic IT needs of organisations right across the country. However, there is a win-win opportunity open for businesses, the opportunity – learn to become a neuro-inclusive organisation.
Foodstuffs North Island is doing exactly that, working with auticon, they are embedding a neuro-inclusive approach to their overarching Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. This will enable the organisations to offer more meaningful employment for people on the autism spectrum.
“Since getting started on the project, auticon have worked extensively with our team. To ensure that we created the right environment they provided an online training session for over 200 people across my team. We got great engagement and really positive feedback from this; it was an excellent initiative and ensured that we provided a neuro-inclusive environment from day one,” said Simon Kennedy Chief Digital Officer Foodstuffs North Island.
Providing training like this to large organisations such as Foodstuffs North Island is great for raising awareness and good news for approximately 93,000 autistic New Zealanders, many of whom struggle to find work. According to Autism NZ less than 10 percent of diagnosed autistic people are in full-time employment.
auticon Consultant Chris is autistic. Chris didn’t finish high school, he found navigating social engagement at school difficult, he then worked numerous jobs as a labourer before he came to auticon. He’s always been obsessed with IT and possesses a high level of self-learned IT skill, but with a lower level of formal qualifications. This made it exceedingly difficult to communicate his skills to potential employers, meaning getting a meaningful job in IT was a formidable challenge to say the least.
“I had a pretty horrible time at school and left at age 15. For many years, I found it hard both finding work and keeping work. I tried all sorts of things, I tried labouring, I even tried being an electrician for a short while, but nothing lasted.”
“Now, having worked with auticon, I’m working in a highly technical IT role with Foodstuffs North Island, in a role I would never have been able to get on my own. Since working with Foodstuffs I’ve excelled, in my first week I built a new system for the organisation and people are now asking me questions which is great.”
“For the first time I feel like this is where I need to be, this is the opportunity that I have always wanted but I never thought I would get it. This is incredible.”
Chris’s manager David Thornburrow who is a Team Lead, Data Engineering within the Data & Analytics team at Foodstuffs North Island is pleased with Chris’s work and keen to explore more opportunities to improve the workplace for people on the autism spectrum.
“I appreciate that autism is a spectrum and everyone’s different, it’s really about understanding the different strategies that might help bring out the best in an individual’s performance, “ said David.
“Chris has fitted in with the team really, really well, I’ve primarily been working at mentoring him. He’s very smart, at times I need to coach him on active listening, as he can get a little ahead of where our end users may be going on a given project.”
“Once auticon introduced us to Chris we noticed that his skill level was very high, however his work experience was low. So, I can see that it would have been difficult for Chris to find work at his level.”
David has two children 15 and 19, both are on the autism spectrum. He also volunteers with the local Scout group and spoke about his experience leading autistic children.
“I find it’s important to break tasks down and not to overload, it’s good to give simple step by step instructions but everyone is different. I’ve also worked with autistic children that are sensitive to light and sound, and in a scout hall that can be really challenging,” he said.
“Most importantly, whether it’s working with autistic children, bringing up my own family or in the workplace, the key is taking the time to understand all people at an individual level that really makes a difference,“ David concluded.