February 22, 2019, by Katy Johnson
Graduates With Autism Making a Difference in SMEs
By Henry Pynegar, General Manager of Power Vigilance
Power Vigilance is a fast-growing Nottingham based business who have offered a range of work experience roles to students in recent years. Here they talk about their experience of hiring two graduates with autism, the adjustments they have made as a business to accommodate individual needs and the huge value they have gained from hiring these talented graduates.
“People with autism each have their own exceptional skills that can benefit employers. At Power Vigilance, we have employed Ben for nearly three years now, starting on a UoN internship scheme, and quickly becoming a permanent employee. Michael has been with us for a short while on a work experience programme.”
1. Why SMEs?
“SMEs can offer supportive environments for people with autism to work because of the flexibility that can be provided. Many companies are moving in this direction, including Power Vigilance. Ben used to work in the office one day a week, and four from home. He now works two days in the office and the rest from home. Ben works more conscientiously from home than you may expect from the ‘average’ employee.
With a smaller team, other employees can quickly learn to adapt to the needs of someone with autism, whereas in larger companies this may take longer and mean less personal interaction. Power Vigilance ensures employees feel like they are a valued member of a team, working towards clear, individualised goals.”
2. Exceptional skills
“Our experience has shown that individuals with autism can have great attention to detail. Ben is exceptionally skilled at finding issues in other people’s code which they might not have found otherwise, these issues can then be rectified. The ability to concentrate for extended periods of time has also been evident. Michael is able to sit and read long documents with a sharp focus. This lends itself to a thorough knowledge of whatever is being read, and a high quality of work arising from it. Both of these skills are highly valuable for a small organization like ours.
Ben and Michael have demonstrated that they are unfailingly honest and conscientious. On one occasion Ben could not start his work timer because of a company laptop issue. Ben made us aware of this and once it was fixed added additional time to his working day!”
3. Thoughts from Ben….
“I am more able than most people to focus on specific tasks, meaning that I am often able to ignore distractions from my work. I am naturally honest; I will say if a task is too difficult for me or has otherwise not been completed properly, and I will avoid taking sick days unless I am actually ill. This also allows me to work productively from home, as I don’t like feeling as though I am cheating my employers. I am good at giving clear explanations of the progress I have made and the problems I have encountered.
I am observant and often spot minor errors that others miss. Having Asperger’s Syndrome can cause certain issues which working in a small company helps with. Social expectations can cause me stress, but I work with a small team of known individuals who are aware of my limitations. I am invited to office socials, but I am not put under pressure to join or shown disrespect by not doing so. I can have difficulty dealing with unexpected changes, but this is known as well. My line manager makes sure to inform me of changes well in advance and gives me time to process it. I do not know if the same would hold true in a larger company.”
4. Thoughts from Michael…
“I have a range of qualities to contribute to a workplace. I am conscientious, precise and adaptable. [Working in a small company] provides an excellent environment for nurturing talent, providing me with the space to conduct independent learning with assistance when required.”
5. Simple adjustments
Henry goes on to explain….
“There are some initial challenges that we considered when hiring a person with autism. Initially, one on one time must be allocated with their manager so their needs can be defined and addressed. Once they feel settled and comfortable though, this becomes less of an issue. As change can be difficult to process, it is important to ensure that the working environment does not vary. For example, if an employee is used to sitting at a certain workstation, you can expect them to want to work in that space in the future. Sometimes it may be necessary for employees to work from home, or work part-time. This means that systems must be in place to allow the employee to do so.
With some very small adjustments, we have been able to bring on board two extremely talented members of staff and encourage other businesses to think about ways they can offer similar experiences to students and recent graduates. Our experience has been nothing but positive!”
6. Supporting Nottingham students
Chris Colegate, Careers and Employability Placement Consultant, comments
“We are fortunate to work with many businesses like Power Vigilance who offer a supportive working environment for our students and graduates. There are many barriers that prevent disabled people from finding work and progressing in employment and we hope that positive stories like this will encourage students to pursue their ambitions and focus less on issues like negative attitudes to disability and inflexible working practices.”
Shelagh Roberts, Academic and Disability Support Tutor, adds
“It is extremely encouraging to hear about the valuable work Power Vigilance are doing to promote the positive aspects of employing people with disabilities. Their approach closely aligns with the aims of our work at Nottingham to support students with disabilities and learning differences accessing work placements without barriers.”
If you are a student seeking support please book in for an appointment with us through MyCareer.
For businesses looking to learn more about the support and guidance we can offer on this topic please contact Chris Colegate, Careers and Employability Placement Consultant.