Grant recipient spotlight: Training to work at Aspiritech
Brenda and Moshe Weitzberg founded Aspiritech in 2008 with the dream of finding suitable employment for their adult son Oran. Though college educated, he had difficulties finding work that suited his talents. After researching a company in Denmark that employed adults doing software QA testing, the Weitzbergs had their answer. From a kitchen table start-up, Aspiritech has built a thriving business by recruiting autistic adults. Their non-profit corporation now boasts a majority autistic management team with 120+ employees and earns 93% of its revenue from clients ranging in size from startups to Fortune 500 companies, like Goldman Sachs. In 2011, Autism Speaks awarded the company a community impact grant to fund a job coach to train 10 new autistic adults.
Below Brad Cohen, Aspiritech’s CMO, explains the key to their success: on-the-job training.
Occupational and vocational training can take many forms, from pre-employment activities to on-the-job coaching. At Aspiritech, a not-for-profit near Chicago, Ill., we provide training and employment for those adults who consider themselves to have high-functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome. Our clients range in size from Fortune 500 companies (Goldman Sachs, Aon, Abbvie and JP Morgan) to startups, the TSA and large private companies (Empire, Medline and Bose). We provide a number of end-to-end QA project services including; manual and automated testing, data analysis and validation and accessibility WCAG/508 compliance testing.
Our training covers both the technical skills of software testing, and the soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace. The initial one- to two-week classroom style training period, which is provided at no cost, covers the basics of software testing and is designed to be accessible to individuals on the spectrum who possess a moderate level of computer proficiency (programming skills are not required). It is hands-on and avoids abstract lessons to meet the needs of trainees with challenges in auditory processing and a more literal sense of language. This training period can last anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months, depending on the needs, pace, and availability of the trainee.
Training serves as an evaluation period and opportunity for trainees to learn if software testing is work that they can focus on and enjoy.
In addition to learning software testing/data validation and 508/WCAG accessibility testing skills, the initial training serves as an evaluation period and opportunity for trainees to learn if software testing is work that they can focus on and enjoy. Those who successfully complete their training are invited to work for Aspiritech as paid software test engineers along with our 125 other employees of which 90% are on the spectrum, including most of our management team. While working at Aspiritech, employees continually undergo further training, developing more advanced technical skills.
Soft skills are also taught through frequent team-building activities, job coaching, social skill groups and regular feedback. Some specific areas addressed include accepting constructive criticism, asking for help, appropriate topics of workplace conversation, and e-mail etiquette. The result: employee surveys and parent reports suggest increased self-esteem and self-determination among our employees.