COLUMBUS, Ohio – An information technology consultancy insists that the drive for job diversification extends to a candidate’s brain.
Auticon, a Berlin-based company that employs only adults in the autism spectrum as IT consultants, has started hiring staff in Columbus to set up its regional headquarters here.
“There is a shortage of skilled workers in this area,” said David Aspinall, CEO of Auticon in the US. “We can use talents who have a performance advantage and at the same time help people.”
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Auticon received government tax incentive approval to hire 50 employees in 2019. The company’s start in Columbus has been slowed down by the coronavirus.
The company has 15 offices around the world, including Europe, Canada and the United States, and employs more than 220 autism IT consultants.
The remote workers in Columbus work with employers in Ohio who require services in areas such as business analytics, artificial intelligence, and software development and migration.
Many adults with autism struggle with employment despite having skills that can excel in the workplace, the company said.
Various studies put the unemployment and underemployment rates for people with autism at 80% or even 90%, said Kerry Magro, who is on the board of directors of the National Autism Association and has autism. At the same time, about a third of people with autism have a college degree.
“It’s pretty shocking,” he said of the high unemployment.
Magro, whose full-time job is public, said many companies feel that hiring people across the autism spectrum is too costly.
Magro sees his job as educating companies and their HR departments about the value of hiring people with autism. Autism workers take less time and are more likely to stay with a company longer, he said. He also looks after young adults on the autism spectrum.
Research shows that “so many families and so many in their community are more likely to buy products and support organizations in the disabled community,” said Magro.
Applicants with autism often fail to state that they have autism during the interview process, he said. Many also find the interview process exhausting.
What often works better is applicants taking an all-day test to show what they are capable of, Magro said. Like other new hires, coaches and mentors can help them adapt.
There aren’t many companies or organizations that do what Auticon does and those that focus more generally on people with disabilities.
JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest private employer in central Ohio, has a program called Autism at Work. In Columbus, Chase has hired approximately 30 autism employees as part of the program, most of whom are technology positions at the bank.
Auticon sees itself as a for-profit company that uses the principles of business to meet society’s challenges, Aspinall said.
“We basically exist to positively change this underemployment rate,” he said.
The company wants to hire people with different levels of experience.
Even software developers with 15 or 20 years of experience could feel underemployed working in an environment where their skills are not being fully utilized, he said. Switching to a company like Auticon will help them feel more connected to the people they work with, he said.
“It’s an organization that values inclusion,” he said.
One of Auticon’s Columbus customers is healthcare technology company CoverMyMeds, which has one employee hired and a second to join.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion are an integral part of our culture,” said Veronica Knuth, the company’s vice president of talent.
Such a focus has been critical to CoverMyMeds’ growth, she said.
“We have a track record of attracting remarkable people with different backgrounds and skills,” said Knuth. “We have employees in the spectrum of our business. With Auticon, it felt like a natural game. It was so much fun to be part of this partnership. “
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