Skills matched up with technology needs in specialist link-up

Special Report A group of 10 employees will find suitable roles for future Specialisterne workers

Mary-Ann McCormack, chief executive of Secialisterne Ireland; Thorkil Sonne, Specialisterne founder; Adam Harris, director Disability Ireland and who has Asperger syndrome, and Luisa Delgado, a global Sap board member view a Lego robot used to assist people with autism who may not be able to communicate too well. Photograph: Iain White/Iain White Photography

Mary-Ann McCormack, chief executive of Secialisterne Ireland; Thorkil Sonne, Specialisterne founder; Adam Harris, director Disability Ireland and who has Asperger syndrome, and Luisa Delgado, a global Sap board member view a Lego robot used to assist people with autism who may not be able to communicate too well. Photograph: Iain White/Iain White Photography

Tue, Jun 11, 2013, 18:14

Specialisterne (the Specialists) Ireland aims to create 50 jobs for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the next five years. The social enterprise was founded in Denmark in 2004 and officially launched in Ireland last year. Its unique approach matches high-functioning individuals with ASD with information technology companies which need their specific skills for software testing, data conversion and other focused computer programming tasks.

SAP Labs Ireland, the Irish branch of international software company SAP, has partnered with Specialisterne Ireland by providing it with office space to assess and support adults with ASD interested in working in the IT sector. As well as putting Specialisterne contractors in contact with its Irish clients for possible work, SAP is also keen to take on suitable candidates to work in its App Haus in City West Business Park, Dublin.

Managing director of SAP in Ireland, Liam Ryan, is enthusiastic about SAP’s involvement with Specialisterne. “A lot of employees in SAP have knowledge or personal experience of autism and there is a lot of goodwill in the company to work with people with ASD who are skilled, intelligent, focused individuals. The company has put together a mini-committee of 10 employees who will find suitable roles for future Specialisterne workers.

“Initially, we hope to take on a few Specialisterne consultants as interns and once they pass this probation period, we hope to match these individuals to roles in the company,” says Ryan.

A key feature of Specialisterne’s approach is the informal interview process. “People with ASD are not that strong on interpersonal skills and typically in school and work situations, they are loners so it’s important to get an idea of what they are like informally,” explains Peter Brabazon of Specialisterne Ireland. “In the interview, we will ask them about their condition and how it affects them and get an idea of what they are able to do.”

The use of Lego hangouts and Mindstorm robotics as interview tools helps break down barriers and reduce social pressure on interviewees. Specialisterne also gives on-going support to workers which takes pressure off companies to provide support staff within the workplace.

“We will work with individuals and companies to ensure a good fit and then we will continue to support them in self-management skills such as getting enough sleep, exercising, getting to work on time, taking lunch breaks,” explains Brabazon.

Mary-Ann McCormack, chief executive of Specialisterne Ireland, believes there are plenty of job opportunities for these workers. The first Specialisterne consultant has already started work in Microsoft in Sandyford. “We’ve had about 35 people come to us looking for work and we are seeking candidates through the IT colleges and local agencies. We see huge opportunities in data analysis and Big Data companies which are in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Liam Ryan says the presence of Specialisterne consultants in the workplace can only improve the working culture in terms of positively influencing management style. specialistpeople.com