New hub to support students with autism into employment

Students with autism, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other neurodiverse needs will soon have greater access to employment opportunities through a new Queensland hub.

The University of Queensland and DXC Technology have partnered to form the Queensland Neurodiversity Hub, which will help students gain work experience with DXC and its partnership organisations.

Dr Anna Krzeminska from UQ Business School says neurodiversity can be a beneficial trait in the workplace, and the Neurodiversity Hub would help connect these skilled students with employers.

“For example, individuals with mild forms of autism have normal to above-normal cognitive abilities that could greatly benefit the productivity and competitiveness of organisations,” she said. 

“And yet, people with autism experience the lowest labour force participation rates when compared to any other demographic in Australia.”

Dr Krzeminska is leading a study to investigate the challenges, lessons and effective practices large organisations face in sustaining skilled autism employment, funded by the Autism Cooperative Research Centre and the Australian Institute for Business and Economics.

While the study found challenges ensuring organisations adapt, Dr Krzeminska is excited about the changes that are occurring, particularly with global IT services company DXC Technology partnering on the hub.

“We see CEOs from Fortune 500 companies who are deeply committed to working on these changes,” Dr Krzeminska said.

“We are at a tipping point for changing the way we think about diversity and inclusion on a larger scale.

"We see embracing people on the spectrum in workplaces as having a positive flow-on effect to all aspects of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

Neurodiversity refers to a range of individual brain functions and behavioural traits, regarded as part of the normal variation in the human population, including autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The University of Queensland Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Joanne Wright said the hub was a welcome addition to the university’s broad program of supporting students with diverse needs.

"This is a great opportunity for us to help more students access workplace experiences that enhance their employability, boost their job confidence and to make vital connections with large-scale employers,” Professor Wright said. 

“We are excited to see the outcomes of UQ research being used immediately to support Queensland’s neurodiverse student population, including our own, and to boost their employment outcomes after graduation.”

DXC Technology Australia and New Zealand Managing Director Seelan Navagam said the company planned to establish at least one neurodiversity hub in each major state in Australia and New Zealand.

“These hubs will enable us to build a pipeline of candidates for our organisation and for clients such as the Australian Federal Government Department of Human Services, Department of Defence and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and also for our partner organisations such as Microsoft, SAP and ANZ Bank,” he said.

Media: Dr Dino Willox, Director of the Student Employability Centre; +7 3346 7012, or Dr Anna Krzeminska, UQ Business School, +7 3346 8137,