German software giant SAP is looking for workers who "think differently" and will help spark innovation.
And the company has a very specific type of employee in mind: it's planning to hire hundreds of people with autism over the next seven years.
The firm says it's seeking employees with autism from around the world to work as software testers and programmers, with the goal of having one per cent of its total workforce made up of people with autism by the year 2020.
"SAP sees a potential competitive advantage to leveraging the unique talents of people with autism, while also helping them to secure meaningful employment," the company said in a statement.
At the moment, SAP employs 65,000 people.
To find the new employees, SAP is working with Specialisterne (Danish for "The Specialists"), an organization founded in Denmark in 2004 to help workers with autism.
"With Specialisterne, we share a common belief that innovation comes from the 'edges'," Luisa Delgado, a member of SAP's executive board, said in a written statement.
"Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century."
At the moment, SAP is testing two pilot projects, one in Ireland and one in India.
The Indian arm of the company has been employing six workers with autism as software testers, and so far the experiment has been a success: productivity has increased since the workers were hired.
In Ireland, meanwhile, SAP is screening candidates for five positions that it expects to fill this year.
And the company will expand the program globally later this year, with hiring in Germany, the U.S., and yes, Canada.
Under German law, employers in that country with 20 or more staff members must ensure that five per cent of those jobs go to severely disabled people.
According to Autism Society Canada, 200,000 Canadians are living with an autism spectrum disorder, and many of them have a tough time finding employment.
On its site, the Society offers Vocational Services for adults with autism, including assessment and career planning, technical and on-the-job training, and "restorative goods, such as hearing aids."
According to CBC Radio's The Current, many people with autism have trouble finding (or keeping) a job, "not because they can't handle the work... Often it's because they can't handle job interviews - or the noise of the workplace."
The Current put together a report on autism in the workplace earlier this year, speaking with Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne, as well as Maureen Jensen, employment coordinator at Autism Calgary, and David Nicholas, who is researching employment issues for Canadians with autism.
Check out that program at The Current site.
Via Al Jazeera