auticon, a global technology employer of autistic professionals, has launched in Australia. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and chief brand officer Lisa Thomas, were on hand to celebrate their arrival.

auticon is a unique social enterprise hailing from Germany – an IT service provider that exclusively employs people on the autism spectrum as IT consultants. 

Richard Branson and Lisa Thomas attended the Australian launch and spoke about the importance of neurodiversity in boosting business performance, as well as the need for companies to adopt a more inclusive approach to their operations.

“We’re in the business of changing business for good. Autistic adults often have wonderful cognitive abilities – such as logic, pattern recognition, precision, and concentration – yet many find it difficult to secure mainstream employment. auticon taps into this potential, producing a great solution for clients and people on the spectrum, as well as for society,” said Richard.

Richard became an investor in auticon in October 2016 and since then both Virgin Money and Virgin Management have become extremely satisfied clients. auticon’s proven business model now employs 170 autistic consultants across the globe, delivering some of the most challenging IT projects

In Sydney, Richard spoke about the importance of auticon’s business model and its power to positively impact people with autism and dyslexia: “Businesses like auticon are true trailblazers because they challenge and encourage us to view conditions like autism and dyslexia differently, not as disabilities, but as talents and assets. 

“My dyslexia has given me a massive advantage in life. It has helped me to think creatively and laterally, and to simplify things, which has been a huge asset when building our Virgin businesses. I think it goes without saying that every company, from start-ups to large multinationals, should view neurodiversity, as in fact any other form of diversity, as a great driver of innovation and, ultimately, success.”

Virgin Australia, auticon

auticon’s understanding that autistic employees make a significant contribution to outstanding business performance, especially in the areas of IT and compliance, is very much in alignment with that of the Virgin Group.

Lisa Thomas shared how the Virgin Group is working to improve the employment prospects of autistic people: “It’s quite simple – inclusive, diverse policies are better for business and better for society. In terms of the Virgin brand, building a more inclusive and diverse business gives us a greater ability to retain talent, to innovate, and to build customer loyalty and brand strength.

“At present, there is a global skills shortage in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields impacting business innovation, this coupled with high unemployment of autistic people creates a missed opportunity. This is demonstrated by the over representation of people on the spectrum in STEM fields of study, pointing to the need for organisations to be more inclusive in their employment practices and explore the possibilities that organisations like auticon present in bridging the skills gap,” said Lisa.

Virgin Australia, auticon

Richard and Lisa were interviewed by auticon Australia’s managing director, Amanda Turnill, who spoke about her two autistic children along with the urgent need to recruit consultants in order to successfully launch operations in Australia: “I have found that the future for autistic children is anything but bright, 80 per cent, or four out of five autistic kids, will face long periods of unemployment throughout their career and will struggle to support themselves. This was the future for my kids and I couldn’t let it happen.

“In Australia, despite being highly qualified, currently only 15 to 20 per cent of people on the autism spectrum are employed in the mainstream workforce, we aim to change this and we need to recruit a number of consultants to fill our upcoming contracts.”
auticon’s introduction to Australia will initially see them launch operations in Sydney with a large expansion across the country soon to follow. 

A Neurodiversity Symposium will be taking place in Sydney on November 22nd where auticon will be hosting a Hackathon to engage with autistic talent in Australia. For more details on the symposium and on auticon’s work please visit their website.

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