We’re looking forward to welcoming Specialisterne Ireland at this year’s DatSci Awards. They’re a not-for-profit company that promotes employment opportunities for people with autism.

It is now accepted that many people with autism have abilities and skills related to their condition which are sought after by businesses including IT, Maths, Science and Administration. Regrettably to-date accessing those jobs and continuing in employment can prove challenging or impossible for some people with autism (our candidates).

People on the autism spectrum can find change and transition very challenging, for example, moving from the world of college to the world of work. However, given the opportunity to access recruitment in a manner that takes account of their autism characteristics and a work environment that is both understanding and accepting of these, it is possible, for our candidates to take their place in employment. That is maybe initially as interns or later as full-time employees.

Specialisterne Ireland through its relationships with companies arranges for its candidates to be recruited through an autism-friendly process. In addition, Specialisterne Ireland provides individual and specific initial and on-going employment support for the candidates at work.

Following a multi-stage assessment, process candidates are placed in companies by Specialisterne Ireland acting as a specialist recruitment agency for people with autism.

One of the people they’ve helped so far is Nick Rankin of SAP.

Tell Us A Little Bit About You

I was trying to get work elsewhere and I wasn’t able to due to issues with the aspergers, mainly due to sensory issues around clothing etc it didn’t work out. I was doing odd jobs, working for UCD here and there, but then my dad saw that Specialisterne was set up and I was actually the pilot candidate for Specialisterne and the first one in Ireland to have been placed, first in Microsoft, and now in SAP.

What Is Your Background?

I have a background in computer science and my degree is in that so I had a good background to work in an IT company but I did find it difficult to actually find a job without the help of Specialisterne. Specialisterne put me forward to Microsoft and I did the interview through them and that gave me the foot in the door.

How Did Specialisterne Help You?

Specialisterne gave me tips, went to the interviews with me, helped settle me in and supported me through difficult times when in employment and for that I was very grateful and now I’m full time and permanent in SAP.

Working with Specialisterne has totally changed my life. I’m employed on a permanent contract, I’ve just bought a house, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the job so from that point it’s been a brilliant achievement. I used to be on disability allowance but now I’m a homeowner with a mortgage so it’s just great, Specialisterne have been fantastic. They got me into a team in SAP who I really like being with, I’ve taken off really well, I’ve been progressing well over the last few years and it’s all been very positive.

Would You Recommend Specialisterne?

I’d totally recommend Specialisterne to anyone. People with aspergers are very intelligent and have a very specific type of intelligence, are really good problem solvers, good attention to detail and work hard and I think that that’s something that a lot of employers look for and Specialisterne are great at helping you find that right employment.

Along with Nick, Specialisterne have helped Lucy Brennan in her professional career. Learn about how her career has been impacted by the support from Specialisterne Ireland by reading our short interview with her below.

Tell Us A Little Bit About You

I was only diagnosed with autism at the age of 31, as while I was fine in the education system, going into the working world was a huge difference. That was when I started to struggle with some things and I gradually got more and more anxious and stressed and depressed until I ended up off sick for months and had to quit my job. Generally everything collapsed in a big heap and then I started trying to work out why this may be the case. Some of my family had just been diagnosed with aspergers and quite a lot of them were diagnosed at around the same time, and eventually I also got my diagnosis.

How Did Specialisterne Help You?

I started thinking about how I could get back into the workforce because I’d built up a lot of anxiety around it and wasn’t sure if I could just go and apply for a job, get an interview, start a job and cope with all that kind of thing. I was really really lucky that Specialisterne existed because it was brand new at the time, but I’m not sure I would have a job without them really. I was googling things and stumbled across them, and a friend of mine mentioned them to me as well. So I just emailed them explaining my situation and asked for their help in finding a job. As part of my doing things for myself after I moved to Ireland I did a graduate diploma in IT in DCU because I did maths before that. I had already been in an IT job before that but not particularly coding or programming, but I had found that I enjoyed that side of IT. So I decided to do the year’s course and got trained in java and programming.

The starting off point was finding opportunities and particularly through the companies who are understanding of the challenges that autistic people have, they helped me sort out my CV as I had only had one ‘proper’ job before that where I had been for five years, so my CV was quite out of date and needed updating. Peter did mock interviews with me to help me practice and practice in a more realistic situation. Specialisterne also got me a couple of interviews, and it was nice because they actually came with me to the interview and introduced me to the company and were there for any specific queries as well as some reassurance.

Would You Recommend Specialisterne?

The really good thing about Specialisterne is the continuing support that you get after you get into employment. A lot of job agencies only get you so far but don’t support you when you’re in employment. I had quite a long adjustment period getting into SAP as I had been out of work for about three years, so it took me quite a long time to get into it and cope with it. I have sleep problems as well, so it wasn’t just difficulties associated with autism either but just being exhausted all the time. I’m not quite sure that I would still be here were it not for the constant support that I get from Specialisterne. Even just having someone to raise concerns to, even small ones that don’t need any practical solutions but just the classic, a problem shared is a problem halved, it’s nice just to get that reassurance sometimes and a friendly face and have someone to talk to who isn’t directly involved with your job and you then may be a bit more honest about any concerns you might have that you don’t want to go to your manager with.

According to Sheila Gilheany, Specialisterne Ireland Chairman: “It is estimated that there are over 65,000 autistic people in Ireland of whom at least 15,000 adult autistic people are unemployed despite possessing third level qualifications. Many of these candidates can play a role in addressing the current skills gap particularly in the disciplines of IT, mathematics, engineering and physics. The challenges for those seeking to join the world of work can include difficulties in navigating the job application and interview process, gaps in work experience or lower academic qualifications. None of these reflect the ability of the candidate nor the impact of their disability on their academic potential.

Specialisterne is working to change the mind-set around this, empowering candidates with professional qualifications to secure meaningful employment and enabling employees with appropriate assessments and supporting the integration of candidates into the workplace.

We wish to help transform the way society perceives autism while simultaneously creating employment and career opportunities and facilitating greater independence for a uniquely skilled pool of candidates.”

Interested in working with their team? 

Frank Holt, Cork. frank.holt@specialisterne.com

Peter Brabazon, Dublin. peter.brabazon@specialisterne.com