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Canberra: The Dandelion Program helps autistic students harness their skills

21 Jul 17

Three Australian tertiary institutes have joined the DXC Dandelion Work Experience Program.

The Australian National University (ANU), University of Canberra (UC) and Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) have all joined the program.

The DXC Dandelion Program focuses on assisting people on the autistic spectrum to build IT careers and works in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

First piloted in 2014 in Adelaide, The Dandelion Program started when DXC Technology in Australia partnered with Specialisterne, a Danish company dedicated to incorporating people with autism into the workforce.

The goal of the DXC Dandelion Work Experience Program is to provide higher education students with the opportunity to take part in technical work experience and improve their confidence, technical and team working skills to increase their employability.

“The DXC Dandelion Work Experience Program allows us to share learning from our employment program with higher education students with autism, giving them the opportunity to improve a range of skills, whilst enhancing their employability,” says Seelan Nayagam, managing director, DXC Technology Australia & New Zealand.

“The program combines the use of robotics with commercial IT industry teaching and methods to help primary school students who are on the autistic spectrum with educational and engagement development.”

Nayagam continues, “we have seen that robotics successfully assists with some social and educational needs.”

Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, deputy vice-chancellor (Academic), Australian National University, says ANU is delighted to be a part of the program.

Hughes-Warrington says the Dandelion Work Experience Program provides ANU students who are on the autistic spectrum with valuable work experience in a real project environment.

“ANU has a proud tradition of supporting students on the autistic spectrum to achieve their full potential. ANU is pleased to work with the Dandelion Work Experience Program to provide more opportunities for our students.”

University of Canberra also joined the program, and Professor Nick Klomp, deputy vice-chancellor (Academic), says that the Dandelion Work Experience Program offers a unique, transformational experience for their students.

“They get to learn hands-on what it’s like to work in a real IT project, as well as having access to opportunities to gain long term employment. We are thrilled for UC to take part in the program."

DXC Dandelion’s program executive, Michael Fieldhouse, says that the work experience program allows DXC to reach further into the talent pool.

He says the program has a secondary benefit in that it allows primary school students on the autistic spectrum to project forward to IT careers in the future through their interaction with higher education students on the spectrum.

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