Special public service programs give people with disabilities real jobs to do

By The Mandarin

August 9, 2016

People with intellectual disabilities are getting administrative work for the Department of Defence, while the Department of Human Services is providing work opportunities for people on the autism spectrum who can really excel in IT jobs.

DHS brings word this week from one of the participants in the Dandelion program, an interesting initiative that finds computing jobs in big companies and government departments that people with atypical neurology are particularly suited to.

The department says Joel Bissmire had “always dreamed of a career in IT” and studied a Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment after high school, but dropped out and took a part-time food service job. The program got his career back on track.

“My day to day role includes testing new features into existing systems to make sure they don’t break,” he explained. “The job is fairly important because we don’t want the consumers to get faulty software.”

Bissmire was accepted into the three-year traineeship program after a strong performance in a four-week-long assessment process. He does well at software testing role due to an “especially strong eye for detail” that makes him a valuable asset, according to DHS, and says he has begun to enjoy socialising a lot more through the experience.

Department of Human Services software tester Joel Bissmire
Department of Human Services software tester Joel Bissmire

“I enjoy going to work and I enjoy the company of my workmates — something I have never experienced at work before,” Bissmire added. “This is a job I really like and I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity. I think it will open up a lot of different employment prospects for me in the future.”

DHS has partnered with the Danish organisation Specialisterne, which sets up similar employment arrangements around the world, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Australian Public Service commissioner John Lloyd reported back this week on a visit to Brisbane’s Gallipoli Barracks, where he met some of the participants in a Defence program to employ people with intellectual disabilities in administrative roles.

There are currently 72 people employed through the program, according to the August issue of the APSC newsletter. They learn new office work skills while “alleviating some of the administrative pressures” for Defence staff. Lloyd said the arrangement “clearly has tangible benefits” for the department and the participants.

“The enthusiasm and commitment of the staff at Gallipoli Barracks is most impressive,” he said. “Other APS agencies could learn a lot from this initiative.”

Defence grad Emmanuel Bukalan was there to meet Lloyd and told the APSC he saw a lot of value in the program: “I feel it is a thoughtful and practical approach to provide meaningful work for people with disability, whilst supporting Defence capability.”

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