The UK arm of a social enterprise which places people on the autistic spectrum into IT employment has received investment from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and UK charity Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
The investment will enable Auticon, which exclusively hires IT consultants on the autism spectrum, to accelerate its growth in the UK IT market. Originally founded in Germany in 2011, Auticon only launched its UK office in spring 2016, and is already working with UK companies on IT projects with its newly recruited consultants.
The investment by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group also offers Auticon a chance to promote social change in attitudes towards autism and employment.
Sir Richard Branson said: “Purpose is at the core of what we do at Virgin. It’s clear by the great work Auticon do they have similar values. Employment rates amongst autistic adults are a hugely challenging social issue in the UK and globally. Helping companies and employees overcome these hurdles is crucial if we’re to enable autistic persons to use their unique skills successfully in the job market.”
Auticon was founded on the knowledge that autistic adults often have extraordinary cognitive abilities, yet many find it difficult to secure or maintain mainstream employment.
In Germany, Auticon already employs over 70 professional IT consultants, including junior consultants and some of the country’s most talented developers, who are highly sought after for complex IT projects by over one third of the German Stock Index (DAX), including blue chip clients, Siemens and Allianz.
Auticon’s Group CEO, Kurt Schöffer, said: “We are honored to have such a respected shareholder onboard. We’re excited to have Richard as one of our new investors and we look forward to continuing expanding our UK business with the support of the Virgin Group. In Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, an experienced grant funder and social investor, I am delighted to have gained an investor who brings an overview of inclusive employment in the UK.
We have been receiving hundreds of applications from adults on the autism spectrum across the UK, France and Germany to work with us at Auticon, and hope this new investment will enable us to see many more. I’m delighted to say that we already have consultants in London working on projects with British companies. We’ll be using this investment to build relationships with as many UK companies as possible.”
Ray Coyle, Auticon’s UK CEO, said: “It is great to see such renowned British investors provide the backing to enable us to build our business in the UK, based on the successful model that has been proven in the German and French markets. This will enable many more companies in the UK to tap into the strengths of autistic adults.”
Caroline Mason, Esmée Fairbairn’s CEO, said: “At Esmée we fund work that contributes to a just and inclusive society. We are delighted to support Auticon to create employment opportunities for autistic people, break down the barriers which prevent them participating in daily life, and ultimately show how they can be an asset to the UK.”
In the UK, only 15% of autistic adults are in full time employment, despite 79% of people with autism on out of work benefits wanting to work; 43% of those who have worked have left or lost a job because of their autism. Auticon directly employs autistic IT consultants, and offers them full support in the form of professional job coaches and IT project managers. These job coaches advise clients on creating autism-friendly work environments and support consultants, as needed, to ensure they feel comfortable and are able to fulfil their potential. Auticon IT project managers guide consultants from a technical angle and advance professional development trajectories that match the individual strengths and interests of consultants.