Individuals with autism spectrum disorders today face a 43% employment rate, compared to 53% employment of individuals with a general disability.

And according to one Western Australian Professor, this may be to the detriment of the ICT industry.

Professor Tele Tan currently operates as the Director of Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA), based out of Curtin University in WA.

Launched in April 2016, AASQA looks to connect individuals with autism spectrum disorders to future careers in ICT.

“We operate on a strength-based approach,” Tan told Information Age.

“We emphasise the skills of people with autism and their innate ability to do repetitive tasks with ease and attention to detail, as well as the out-of-the-box thinking that makes them extremely creative and innovative individuals.”

The program particularly focuses on careers in software quality assurance, data analysis and cyber security, which Tan believes best utilise the special talents of people with autism spectrum disorders.

AASQA follows a two-step approach to give these students the best chance of securing employment in the ICT industry.

First, a training academy, with tertiary sector links, that helps to train and certify the students with software inspection skills.

This includes the CoderDojo WA coding club for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

The next component is the enterprise, that gives students industry links and relevant employment opportunities.

Tan, who in 2016 was a finalist for ICT Educator of the Year, has teamed up with ACS and the ACS Foundation to create professional opportunities for these students to show off their capability.

“ACS lead us to the various contacts that we make, like Bankwest, and that leads to creating internship opportunities using the ACS Foundation support,” he said.

“By the end of next year, we’ll be having close to 40 scholarship placements that will benefit all students completely.”

Western Australia Chapter Manager at the ACS Foundation, Leila Enojas, has collaborated with large companies such as BHP and Bankwest to give students industry-leading internship opportunities.

Last Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull presented BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie with a photograph taken by a student from CoderDojo to recognise the support BHP has shown the program, including 30 internships.

“There is a lot of interest within BHP,” she said. “And we’re looking at them to take on more students through this in other groups at BHP.”