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Germany – Tech firm on autism recruitment drive

04 October 2013

German software company SAP is looking to recruit hundreds of people with autism as programmers and product testers, saying they have a close attention to detail and an ability to solve complex problems, reports londonlovesbusiness.com.

In a statement, SAP said: “In support of its mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, SAP announced it will work globally […] to employ people with autism as software testers, programmers and data quality assurance specialists.”

SAP started the project by hiring six people with the condition in its office in Bangalore, India, where they work as software testers. SAP said that its productivity had increased as a result of their efforts. Encouraged by this success, the German company is now looking to expand the project globally to leverage their unique talent for information technology.

SAP executive Luisa Delgado said the company believed that: “innovation comes from the edges”. She added: “Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st Century.”

SAP’s recruitment drive is being undertaken in partnership with Specialisterne, a Danish organisation that harnesses the talents of people with autism to work in technology-oriented jobs.

People with autism have a neural developmental disorder that often undermines their ability to communicate and interact socially. It is estimated that autistic spectrum disorders affect only about 1% of the population worldwide.

However, according to research they often have above-average intelligence and are very good at looking for patterns and understanding rule-based systems, which can translate into highly useful skills in the world of computers.

With an aim to reflect the proportion of people with autism in our society within its 65,000 strong workforce, SAP announced that they plan to hire and train around 650 people with autism to become IT specialists by 2020.

The company will also provide coaches who can act as mediators between the workers and their employers and colleagues, for example, to assist them with the challenges of working under time pressure or communication.

SAP’s recruitment drive was highly welcomed by Autismus Deutschland, Germany’s largest organisation for people with autism.

Friedrich Nolte of Autismus said: “This is the first major company to make such a commitment, and from that point of view alone it’s ground breaking for sufferers of autism. We will be watching closely to see that they follow through and also looking to see that these workers are not being exploited.”


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