A report has been published on the delivery of Dandelion Program Victoria, an innovative program that has helped small to medium businesses create meaningful career paths for adults on the autism spectrum.

16 September 2019

Specialisterne, one of the first companies in the world to highlight the benefits of a neuro-diverse workforce, developed Dandelion Program Victoria with a grant from the Jobs Victoria Innovation Fund. The program works with businesses to employ adults with autism and generate greater awareness of the benefits of a neuro-diverse workforce.

Of all disabilities in Australia, people with autism represent the highest proportion of people that are either unemployed or underemployed..

Established in 2015, Specialisterne Australia set a goal to enable 12,000 careers for people on the autism spectrum by 2025. The organisation focusses on helping organisations understand and harness the talents of people with autism through a tailored approach to recruitment.

Despite achieving success in working with large, corporate partners in major city centres around Australia, Specialisterne recognised that its programs were difficult to access for smaller businesses. The Jobs Victoria Innovation Fund grant enabled Specialisterne to create Dandelion Program Victoria for small to medium businesses.

Dandelion Program Victoria was delivered in Melbourne and Mildura and included roles in administration, hospitality, legal, warehousing and information technology. Along with a tailored recruitment process for employers and jobseekers, the program delivered training for employers and colleagues on autism awareness, established an ongoing support framework involving local disability service providers and provided support for employers and jobseekers throughout.

The report from the delivery of Dandelion Program Victoria highlights the importance of opportunity and diversity within workplaces. The experiences of both participating employees and employers showcase the high level of work demonstrated by employees and how the program shaped an inclusive and productive working environment.

One employee who participated reported, “work’s fun, and I enjoy going to perform my job and mingle with my colleagues.” Another said, “My mental health has been better. My confidence has improved.” Similarly, family members of employees spoke positively of the program, saying, “It was very professional, and organised, and [we] felt respected.”

Employers spoke of the benefits of the program’s tailored approach. “Normally we have just a CV and a 20-minute interview to go by. The Specialisterne recruiting process gives us a much better picture of the participant.” “Most other recruiting programs I have been involved with don’t offer this detailed support.”

The success of Dandelion Program Victoria has led to the creation of a second phase of Specialisterne’s specialist employment support services, Dandelion Centres Victoria. Dandelion Centres Victoria will operate a number of STEM skills training and assessment programs throughout Victoria over a 12-month period for up to 100 Victorians on the autism spectrum.

Visit the Jobs Victoria Innovation Fund to find out more about other grants provided to support new and innovative approaches to employment services.

Download the full Dandelion Program Victoria project report.