Organization aims to enable 10,000 jobs for people with autism

Specialisterne to partner with Canadian government, employers to provide meaningful jobs

An international social enterprise organization intends to facilitate 10,000 new jobs for Canadian workers who fall on the autism spectrum.

Specialisterne, an award-winning international organization, launched headquarters in Toronto and offices in Vancouver on Tuesday. The organization will create partnerships with government, communities and employers to create opportunities for workers with autism to find meaningful and sustained employment.

People on the autism spectrum are an under-utilized human resource, the organization said, and their global mandate is to enable 1 million jobs globally for those with autism or similar challenges.

In Canada, the organization’s goal is to facilitate 10,000 jobs for people with autism both through its related IT consulting business and by helping partner organizations to train and employ people with autism.

"There is so much opportunity for us in Canada to create meaningful and productive jobs for the growing number of people diagnosed with autism," says Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne.

"There is clearly a readiness and excitement here and we are confident that the combination of our operational experience from 11 countries, and a very strong and dedicated team in Canada, will bring about the sort of change that will benefit all stakeholders."

Specialisterne uses a model that has seen significant success through identifying and cultivating the strengths and capabilities of those on the autism spectrum — many of whom have particular skill in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The organization intends to educate employers about the business advantages of employing workers on the autism spectrum, which go far beyond just meeting diversity or inclusion goals.

"This is much more than an altruistic venture," said Kirsten Sutton,vice-president and managing director of SAP Labs Canada. "We have already seen through successful pilot projects in India and Ireland how the employment of people with diverse talents, including people with autism, can offer us a new way of thinking and bring value to our business."

The Ontario government has welcomed Specialisterne’s new Canadian headquarters, saying that incorporating social enterprise makes good business sense.

"I want to commend Specialisterne Canada for choosing to open an office in Ontario," said Eric Hoskins,minister of economic development, trade and employment.

"Social enterprises like Specialisterne Canada make our communities stronger and help to build a fair Ontario for everyone. Ontario's recently released (report) Impact - A Social Enterprise Strategy for Ontario, will help position the province as the leading social enterprise jurisdiction in North America. Social enterprises, like Specialisterne, make good business sense and deliver effective solutions for pressing social challenges, like helping people with autism find meaningful job opportunities."

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