Gordon Douglas spent most of his 20s on welfare, struggling to find an employer who would look past his “differences” and give him a break, ABC News reports.
The 34-year-old battled his way through job application after job application but, despite being highly qualified and intelligent, he often fell out of contention when it came to face-to-face interviews.
His problem, he said, was misreading social cues and interview panels that didn’t know how to interpret his quirks.
Now he’s in a top-secret role with the same government agency which supported him through years of jobseeker payments — Services Australia — in a ground-breaking program that recruits people on the autism spectrum.
“There was only one job I wanted, and I was the first pick for it, so, great!” Mr Douglas said.
Services Australia spokesman Hank Jongen said the agency had been actively recruiting people on the spectrum for five years.
“They bring us highly desirable skills — they’re in data analysis, they’re in programming, they require attention to detail,” Mr Jongen said.
Nick Burleigh, 25, was recruited through the same program and now works in another secure role with Services Australia.
“I can’t really go into the nitty-gritty details, but generally what we’re doing is looking for data science solutions to identifying fraud cases,” Mr Burleigh said.
“Especially with this data type role, where there is a heavy reliance on that coding and understanding the logic, I do feel like there is an advantage there for us.”
But, like Gordon, Nick had the same frustrations in negotiating traditional recruitment processes.
Both Gordon and Nick came to Services Australia through the recruitment firm Specialisterne, which works with neurodiverse jobseekers and matches them to willing employers.
And Specialisterne executive Jason White said “the big end of town” was coming around to what some call the “autism advantage”.
Nick Burleigh struggled with traditional recruitment processes before landing his job at Services Australia.(ABC News)