Microsoft reveals pilot project to hire people with autism
Microsoft Corp. signage outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Wash. July 3, 2014. (AP / Ted S. Warren)
Michelle Zilio, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, April 6, 2015 1:21PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 6, 2015 2:14PM EDT
Microsoft is launching a pilot program to hire people with autism, saying they bring a unique skillset to the massive technology company.
In a blog post last week, Microsoft Corporate Vice-President of Worldwide Operations Mary Ellen Smith announced the pilot project focused on hiring people with autism in full-time positions at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
"Microsoft is stronger when we expand opportunity and we have a diverse workforce that represents our customers," said Smith.
"People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, each individual is different, some have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code."
Microsoft has partnered with Specialisterne, a company that works to provide jobs to high functioning people with autism and similar challenges through social entrepreneurship and innovative employment models.
Smith did not offer many details about the program itself.
“It’s early days but we’re excited to get going and we know we’ll learn a lot along the way,” she said.
For Smith, the initiative hits close to home. Her 19-year-old son Shawn was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old. She said she is proud to work at Microsoft, "a company that believes strongly in diversity."
Microsoft has been committed to hiring people with disabilities in events services, transportation and food services for years.
World Autism Awareness Day
Microsoft's commitment comes on the heels of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.
Speaking at the United Nations headquarters in New York City last week, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on businesses to employ people with autism who have "remarkable artistic or academic skills."
“People with autism have enormous potential,” said Ban. “We encourage public offices, corporations, and small businesses to have a closer look at the way they perceive people with autism, to take the time to learn about the condition and to create life-changing opportunities."
Jobs for people with autism in Calgary
A Calgary-based consultancy firm is also working to find jobs for people with autism. Meticulon, based in Calgary, hires consultants with autism and matches them with suitable jobs in software testing, which require attention to detail, are logical, sequential and often repetitive.
A Belgian company called Passwerk, a cooperative launched in 2008 to employ, train and coach adults with autism in computer software testing, helped Meticulon develop its firm.
With files from CTV Calgary