Companies are seeing an increasing range of benefits from employing graduates with neurodivergent challenges, says Peter Brabazon, CEO with Specialisterne Ireland, a not-for-profit specialist recruitment service.
Neurodiversity views conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia/DCD as a natural variance of the human brain rather than something to be cured. Specialisterne is working to reverse patterns of unemployment, which can be as high as 85% for some people with neurodivergent conditions.
“The feedback we’re getting from employers is that our candidates are loyal, hard-working and bring a lot to the teams they’re working with,” said Peter Brabazon. “It might be that they need very clear initial direction, but once they get on top of the job, they really thrive.
“With autism, for instance, where a person may lack social skills, we’re also being told about candidates who have brought a great sense of humour and a different view.”
In the past three years, Specialisterne’s innovative employment programme, funded through the Ability Programme, has helped 146 students and recent graduates to secure employment or gain experience and training opportunities. Despite Covid, 71 of these are currently in employment, including students who secured internships and work placements.
Several client companies have told Specialisterne that bringing in this new viewpoint has, in some cases, been very valuable in understanding products and customer experiences. One Microsoft study showed a jump in productivity, along with a boost in empathy for their teams.
“Neurodivergent people experience, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways and can be a valuable asset to a company, with research showing that teams with neurodiverse members are more productive,” explained Mr Brabazon.
“One of our candidates, Patrick, is very good at IT, but he was very nervous about work when he started. He now works in quality control, and we’re told that he has had a hugely positive influence on the team he’s working with. He’s also now in a relationship.
“The companies are benefitting from people bringing new skills and new perspectives. It’s also very good for the country to help people go from being unemployed into roles where they’re contributing to society.”
Mr Brabazon’s views are supported by the employers and the candidates themselves. Here is a small selection of their feedback.
Neurodiversity delivers major gains
- “As for my sessions with Noreen and Adie of Specialisterne, I found them extremely helpful,” said Emmett, who was offered a graduate position with Verizon.
- “Specialisterne’s support for our students with autism has been life-changing,”said Judy Murphy, careers advisor, IT Carlow.
- “Ballyhoura Development would welcome the opportunity to continue to support Specialisterne Ireland,” said Padraig Casey, GM, Ballyhoura Development.
- “People with autism are technically minded and think in a structured way and there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be able to do the job,” said Liam Ryan, MD, SAP Ireland.
- “Specialisterne has enabled me to work in a job I love. The people here are very friendly, and I really enjoy the work here,” said Nick Rankin, now in SAP following a period in Microsoft.
A mix of colleges, universities and further education centres participated including IT Carlow, DCU, the National College of Ireland and Coláiste Dhúlaigh.
Candidates were supported on a one-to-one basis to develop the confidence to communicate their experience in preparation for interview and job applications. These sessions also provided support in the form of mock interviews and CV preparation.
A range of Irish employers, many of whom are dedicated to increasing their numbers of employees with disabilities through internal diversity and inclusion programmes, worked closely with Specialisterne Ireland to make roles available for these candidates.
Specialisterne then matched suitable graduates to available roles, and most importantly provided support to those employers after recruitment, thereby ensuring long-term secure employment for graduates with neurodivergent challenges.
Peter Brabazon said: “This programme has shown the success of a dedicated recruitment stream to help graduates with neurodivergent conditions find opportunities and transition to employment after college.
“Unfortunately, many neurodivergent graduates fall through the cracks, even with in-demand third level qualifications, we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“We have really enjoyed working with candidates to see them achieve their full potential and overcome the difficulties of the traditional recruitment barriers, and we wish them all the best with their careers.
“Our plan is to continue working with the third-level sector to target graduates at this stage in their career and break the unemployment cycle that has been with us for too long.”
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PHOTO: Peter Brabazon, CEO with Specialisterne Ireland, a not-for-profit specialist recruitment service, says independent research has shown that work teams with neurodiverse members are more productive.