Technology – like most industries – is only as good as the people who make it. If some people cannot access the workplace, everyone is deprived of it.
This week, IrishJobs.ie and autism charity AsIAm presented a set of guidelines for employers to make their workplaces more autistic-friendly. It came after a survey by the two organizations last year found that nine out of 10 people thought their autism made it difficult for them to find a job.
A new Same Chance pledge can be signed on the AsIAm website. By signing it, employers agree to develop more inclusive recruitment processes, integrate autism-friendly practices into their daily operations, provide training for people with autism, and promote autism-friendly hiring practices. autism in Ireland.
According to Rob Enslin, outgoing president of global customer operations at Google Cloud, employers who overlook autistic candidates for tech careers are missing out. Google Cloud runs an Autism Career Program, which aims to support people with autism as they work in the growing cloud industry. Launching the initiative last July, Enslin said he had worked with neurodiverse people for years.
“People with autism can be highly functional, contributing professionals in any organization,” he added. “Too often, however, the interview process can run into problems due to unconscious bias on the part of a hiring manager or interviewer, for example, if the candidate does not look an interviewer in the eye or takes longer to pass a test.This bias often unintentionally marginalizes excellent candidates and means companies are missing out on valuable talent that can contribute and enrich the workplace.
As part of the program, Google Cloud planned to work with the Stanford Neurodiversity Project, which provides consulting services to employers on opportunities for neurodiverse people in the workplace. It also aimed to train up to 500 Google Cloud managers involved in recruitment processes to make recruitment more inclusive and efficient for candidates with autism.
But it’s not just people with autism who may struggle to access opportunities in the workplace. It can also be a challenge for people with disabilities, refugees, asylum seekers and others who face financial or socio-political barriers to employment.
Fortunately, some Irish employers have already started to recognize that the workplace needs more diversity. Last year, more than 40 companies, including Eir, Deloitte, BT, Accenture and Aviva, signed a contract pledging to commit to greater diversity and inclusion. The contract designed by Business in the Community Ireland included commitments such as self-confidence training for people with disabilities and analyzes of the gender pay gap.
There are also many initiatives designed for people from specific underrepresented communities. Some, like Google Cloud’s Autism Career program, are developed by companies while others are set up by nonprofit organizations.
Ireland’s non-profit Open Doors Initiative brings together over 100 members, from private businesses to NGOs, to ‘provide opportunities for some of the marginalized members of our society’, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants , people with disabilities and disadvantaged youth, those from a traveling background, the LGBTIQ+ community and more.
It seeks to provide training, placements, apprenticeships, community supports and employment opportunities. Since its inception in 2018, it has helped over 16,800 people access workplace supports and training and launched projects such as Employers for Change and Towards Work.
“Increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities is one of the most pressing social issues facing our society”
– PADDY SMYTH
Another Irish non-profit organisation, Rethink Ireland, has set up the Ability to Work fund to help people with disabilities access employment. The fund was set up alongside the Departments of State Street and Government, and provides €1.5 million in funding over three years to four Irish non-profit organizations helping to develop the talents and skills of people with disabilities .
Dublin Simon Community’s Employability Pathways program is one of the fund’s beneficiaries, along with University College Cork’s Disability Support Service Mentoring Programme. The Not So Different Creative Hub, which promotes what neurodiverse candidates can offer employers while providing support for neurodiverse job seekers, and WALK, which provides education, training and employment for people with disabilities, also receive grants. funds.
Last September marked the first year of operation of the Work Ability Fund. During this period, it has helped 46 people with disabilities obtain an internship, while 117 others have undergone on-the-job training and 77 have participated in an employability pathway program.
Speaking at the time, Irish disability campaigner Paddy Smyth said that “increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities is one of the most pressing social issues facing our society. Companies can help solve this problem by increasing their efforts to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
“Bias often unintentionally marginalizes good candidates and means companies miss out on valuable talent that can contribute and enrich the workplace”
– ROB ENSLIN
Other companies are stepping in to support people who would otherwise have great difficulty finding a job.
Cork-based company Zartis runs scholarship programs with the Code Institute to provide free technical training and mentorship to refugees and migrants. This Level Up course launched four years ago, and earlier this year it introduced a program for women in tech.
Three Irish non-profits also came together in January to launch an online portal for migrants and refugees to access training and education programmes. The SaorEd portal is run by Doras, New Horizon and Dignity Partnership, and offers free English, IT, healthcare and soft skills courses in several different languages, including Arabic, German and English. ‘Spanish.
According to John Lannon, CEO of Doras, the portal was set up to be as convenient as possible for people living in direct delivery centers across the country or who otherwise don’t have access to training.
“Refugees and asylum seekers are among the most marginalized people in Irish society,” he added. “Education is a doorway to inclusion, connection and dignity. It opens doors of possibility and opportunity that are so essential for people who often flee war, poverty and persecution.
“Refugees and asylum seekers are among the most marginalized people in Irish society… Education is a doorway to inclusion, connection and dignity”
– JEAN LANNON
The world of work has undoubtedly seen a major shift in the past couple of years, with the mass adoption of remote working and learning potentially opening up new opportunities for people.
Last November, a report by Employers For Change, part of the Open Doors initiative, found that while remote working could remove barriers for workers with disabilities, it should not be seen as a substitute for accommodations. practice. This could apply to all underrepresented communities in the workplace. Out of sight should not mean out of mind.
We should all have the same opportunities in the workplace, but the idea of hiring candidates who might have different needs, abilities, or backgrounds can fall way down a company’s priority list.
However, technology – like many other industries – is only as good as the people who make it. If some people cannot access the workplace, the whole world is deprived of it.
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