New firm hopes to create 50 jobs for people with autism


A new social enterprise is aiming to create 50 jobs for people with autism in Scotland, by providing skilled software-testing services to businesses.

Specialisterne Scotland, which was launched by Scottish government minister John Swinney this week, is modelled on a Danish company which was set up to offer mainstream jobs at market rates of pay to people with autism.

About three-quarters of the 60 staff at Specialisterne in Denmark have autism and they work in areas such as programming and software testing.

The company uses the skills and characteristics shared by some people with autism, such as precision and consistency, to provide IT services to businesses around the world.

Now Specialisterne Scotland, which is based in Glasgow, is set to use this successful blueprint to provide jobs for people with autism in Scotland.

Over the next six months, Specialisterne Scotland will recruit and train 12 people with autism, with commercial testing due to begin early next year. It aims to create a workplace with “a high degree of planning, predictability, systemisation and minimal stress”.

By 2015, it expects to be employing 61 people, 50 of whom will have autism.

The new business has been developed by the social enterprise support agency Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEiS), with support from the National Autistic Society Scotland (NASS) and the Autism Resource Centre.

Gerry Higgins, chief executive of CEiS, said: “We know from the experience in Denmark that Specialisterne Scotland has the potential to change lives for the better by providing mainstream employment at the market rate for people with autism, while transforming recruitment attitudes and business practices.

“In the longer term, we anticipate that the majority of the workforce will be working at customer premises, assisting the competitiveness of Scottish businesses.”

SS has secured £700,000 in grant and loan funding from the Scottish government’s Scottish Investment Fund, a Big Lottery award of more than £400,000 as well as £30,000 from Glasgow City Council.

NASS said its research had found only 13 per cent of adults with autism in Scotland had jobs.

Carol Evans, national director for NASS, said Specialisterne Scotland was “a real breakthrough in employers recognising the strengths of people with autism as key staff in their workforce”.

Kieran Pentland, who has Asperger’s syndrome and works for NASS as an employment consultant, said: “Being in an occupation that I love and enjoy doing has given me a sense of purpose, financial independence, boosted my confidence, lifted my depression, and restored my pride and dignity.”

5 August 2010