Bankwest and employees benfitting from autism internship

Michael New.
Michael New.

BANKWEST’s Perth HQ is benefitting from the bank’s trail-blazing autism internship.

Michael New (21) is working as an Associate IT Specialist at Bankwest’s head office in Perth.

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.

According to the 2012 Census, 58 per cent of Australians diagnosed with autism are unemployed, often because prospective employers struggle to come to terms with the different ways neuro-atypical people see the world.

Mr New said his autism makes him particularly suited to computer and software-based work.

“Autism is too often seen as a disability but for me it actually gives me one of my strongest abilities,” he said.

“I’m able to focus on projects and minute details in ways that other colleagues might struggle. For IT work, that’s a pretty useful ability.”

Mr New joined Bankwest through its autistic internship program in 2016 and has since been accepted to the Bankwest graduate development program.

“It’s great to have been given this kind of opportunity, but it’s not a hand-out. I had to compete against many other candidates to get on to the graduate program and I had to show I could more than hold my own,” he said.

Bankwest’s internship program is run in conjunction with the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA), based at Curtin University.

Commencing in 2016, the program is part of Australia’s first information technology internship designed for people with autism.

It aims to break down negative stereotypes and has created positive results for the workplace.

Bankwest general manager of IT strategy and planning and AASQA board member Sean Langton said the internship allowed “people with autism to be given the opportunity, space and tools to innovate and develop their careers”.

“As a Board member of the AASQA I can tell you this program is incredibly important for our community and the economy,” he said.

“For me it’s about making sure we don’t exclude people who are well-qualified to do the work and it’s perfectly aligned with the Federal Government’s productivity and innovation agenda, which is gathering steam nationwide.”

Mr New was taken on to the program along with two other colleagues and worked in software testing.

Since joining the graduate program, he has been even more active in the Bankwest Autism internship program by serving as a voluntary working group member and a mentor to the new interns of 2017.

He also joined AASQA as a board member.