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Services Australia taps neurodiverse community for tech talent

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Mammoth agency Services Australia has increased its courting of people living with autism to fill technology roles, as the Albanian government looks to hire otherwise overlooked talent to replace costly contractors amid a severe skills shortage.

Government services minister Bill Shorten said Services Australia is expanding its acclaimed Aurora Neurodiversity Program, doubling the number of people it plans to hire to 70 from the 33 already working under the program since 2020.

“The Aurora program is a truly unique and specialized disability employment program,” Shorten said.

“Services Australia is demonstrating the value of providing an accessible and inclusive workplace. Aurora is providing the opportunity for some of our nation’s brightest to showcase their skills and value in the workplace.”

It’s also likely to save the government a fair amount of money by tapping into an underutilized talent pool that conventional recruiters and labor hire agencies overlook.

Aurora, a partnership with Specialisterne Australia, is Services Australia’s primary disability employment program.

It currently recruits for roles in Canberra, but Shorten said there will soon be openings in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne.

A key point of difference in the way Aurora places people in the workplace is that it looks at what they can achieve if empowered rather than starting from constraints and limitations.

Alexis, who works in cyber security and was hired under Aurora in May this year, said the hiring process made the difference.

“I found it really difficult to find permanent or part-time work because conventional recruitment processes were really challenging,” Alexis said.

“But Aurora recruitment was so different. The Aurora approach really helped me show my strengths and capabilities.”

Employed as a training and awareness officer, Alexis is working with young women in colleges in the Canberra region to encourage them to enter STEM professions, Services Australia said.

“Before Aurora, I struggled at school and struggled to complete formal qualifications,” Alexis said.

Services Australia has serious competition for its neurodiverse recruits. The Australian Signals Directorate recently revealed that it looks to people on the spectrum as a specific talent pool to find code breakers and cyber talent.

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