Young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are getting a chance to use their IT skills and gain employment thanks to the Dandelion programme, a partnership between the Department of Human Services, HP Australia and Danish organisation Specialist People Foundation.
One of the Dandelion programme trainees is Brisbane-based Jack Anderson, who commenced the programme at the Department of Human Services in September.
Jack is an intelligent 23 year old, who graduated with top marks as the Dux of his high school and went on to complete a Bachelor of Science before beginning Honours.
While Jack’s academic talents are clear, there were barriers that made it difficult for him to find a job through traditional recruitment processes.
“While I was at university I was lucky that I could rely on my grade point average to gain work tutoring maths and physics students without having to go through the usual recruitment processes. Outside of tutoring, my telephonobia made it difficult to contact employers, and on the occasion that I did manage to make a call I was not very good at it”.
The Dandelion programme is an Australian first, with an initial pilot programme starting at the Department of Human Services in Adelaide earlier this year. The programme is an example of the HP(E) Living Progress to unite people, ideas and technology to solve the world’s toughest challenges. When Jack heard it was coming to Brisbane, it was an opportunity he did not want to miss out on.
“The great thing about the Dandelion programme is from the very beginning, I felt understood. The first contact is online, and when I was phoned, they knew what to say to me so I didn’t feel pressured to do anything on the spot.
“I did have an interview, but it was all about finding out about me rather than feeling like I needed to sell myself to them. I liked the way everyone was on a level playing field during the recruitment process. Some people had experience with coding already, but because we were using Lego Mindstorms, it was quick to pick up for those who weren’t as experienced.”
Jack said being a trainee at the Department of Human Services has given him opportunities to grow personally and professionally in a supportive environment.
“The programme allows me to feel comfortable coming forward if I’m unsure about something. I have five people available to ask the questions I would otherwise be hesitant to ask. I don’t feel like I am wasting their time and I am encouraged to learn at my own pace.
“I have learnt team work. We help each other, working with systems and instructions that are challenging sometimes.
“This opportunity has given me the experience of working with people I get along with, and who can relate with the same sort of struggles. I would consider a few of them my friends now.”
Dandelion programme traineeships run for three years, and Jack says he’s looking forward to what lies ahead.
“I look forward to gaining the experience of a working environment that other people instinctively know. I want to learn how to manage the schedule of a regular job, gain experience for future jobs, and make connections in the industry.
“I would like to gain experience in coding and programming then see what options are available. I could even combine a university course to further my role once my traineeship is completed.”