SAP Hires Autistic Workers In Canada

07 Nov 2013

Immigration News

After initiating similar pilot projects in Ireland, Germany and India, SAP (System, Applications and Products), a German-based international company is now planning to hire 6 people with autism as software testers in Vancouver, Canada.

British Columbia’s autism support groups appreciate the initiative by SAP because of the dire employment rate for people with autism, and they hope this unique program will be emulated by other businesses as well.

However, both the support groups and the company, insist this is not charity. SAP is hiring from a labor pool of high-functioning, albeit untapped potential of autistic people with software skills.

SAP Canada’s Head of Human Resources, Baerbel Ostertag said that they are outstanding in terms of memorizing things, have extreme attention to detail, also have logical thinking.

The multinational software company employed 5 workers in Ireland and 6 in India to perform skilled yet repetitive jobs which are attractive to a few autistic people, like data management, software testing and programming.

A similar program is launched by SAP in Germany, where it aspires to hire 7 autistic workers. Canada is the 4th country targeted by the company, where there are plans to hire up to 3 people in Montreal and 6 people in Vancouver with autism.

Specialisterne (which means Specialists in English), the Denmark firm that focuses on finding jobs for people with autism, is aiding SAP in hiring the workers, training current employees on interacting with autistic colleagues, and connecting the managers in Canada with those in Ireland and India for advice.

In Ireland and India, SAP managers report improved bonding at the workplace and increased productivity because of the work performed by autistic employees.

As most people with autism have extreme difficulty in forming relationships and communicating, current employees are advised to be straightforward with their new colleagues.

The aim of the Vancouver office is to hire 6 people by early 2014 with all the people being paid competitive salaries.

Burnaby-based Autism Community Training’s Deborah Pugh said there are an estimated 40,000 autistic adults in British Columbia - many without a diagnosis - and according to the statistics, less than 25% have steady work.

She said that at present, providing work for autistic adults is the No. 1 priority in the autism community and the real challenge is finding them employment that is compatible with their intellectual ability.

Pugh added that the initiative from SAP is important and because even though high-functioning autistic people may be good at software coding, many-a-times they are handicapped during conventional job interviews because of their awkward social skills.

Support groups wish other organizations will also acknowledge the specific skills of high-functioning autistic people while understanding that they may not be able to do some tasks, like writing reports or giving presentations.

Previous President of Autism Society of Canada and President of the Board of the Autism Society of B.C., Michael Lewis said that though it cannot be generalized, often autistic people can be highly focused on specific activities they are engaged in and in many cases something like reviewing software code is right up their alley.

Lewis said that they can be very bright and very focused in areas that are of interest to them, and most of the time, the deficit is in the social area.

Lewis added that it is important that SAP educate its employees about the way to work with autistic people.


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