Social Enterprise Scheme to Create 50 New Jobs for People With Autism

Sector News

A project in Scotland to create up to 50 IT jobs for people with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) has been awarded £700,000 in grant and loans.

The Scottish government cash will help the Specialisterne project, set up by Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEiS), to recruit and train staff.

The Glasgow project is based on a Danish model which employs people with ASD as software testers.

Only 13% of adults with ASD in Scotland are thought to be in full-time work.

Specialisterne Scotland, which was set up with the help of The National Autistic Society Scotland and the Autism Resource Centre, will spend the next six months recruiting the first 12 potential trainees.

They will undergo a four-month training programme using Lego Mindstorm sets and robotics to identify and match their skills to work tasks.

To ensure the trainees achieve their full potential, Specialisterne aims to create a highly-planned and predictable working environment to minimise stress.

CEiS chief executive Gerry Higgins said: "We know from the experience in Denmark that Specialisterne Scotland has the potential to change lives for the better by providing mainstream employment at the market rate for people with autism, while transforming recruitment attitudes and business practices.

"The company will commence commercial testing in early 2011 following recruitment and training of the workforce.

"By 2015 we expect to employ a total of 61 people, 50 of whom will have autism and have a projected turnover of £1.6m."

As a social enterprise, Specialisterne Scotland will re-invest any profit to help create jobs for people with ASD.

'Important milestone'

Scotland was the first country to be chosen to develop the model outside of Denmark.

Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne and Specialist People Foundation, said: "With the opening of Specialisterne Scotland we have set a very important milestone in making society welcome people with autism spectrum disorder as valuable and worthy citizens.

"The opening of Specialisterne Scotland sets the scene for the first international Specialisterne operation with potential to become a showcase not just for Scotland and the UK - but for the whole world in our ambition to enable one million jobs for specialist people globally."

In addition to the Scottish government funding, the project has also received £407,036 from the Big Lottery Fund and £30,000 from Glasgow City Council.

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