Gifted youth overcome barriers to bright futures

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Getting the call to say, “You’ve got the job,” is a big deal for any young person. But for a young person on the autism spectrum it is a special achievement, given the many hurdles they have to overcome to get a foot in the door and succeed in the workplace.

A staggering 55% of Australians with autism under 30 years of age are unemployed. A new social enterprise in Brisbane is helping reverse these figures by supporting bright young people to launch their careers.

Australian Spatial Analytics (ASA) in Fortitude Valley will train and employ 25 young data analysts on the autism spectrum to provide commercial spatial mapping services, through partnerships with government, research facilities and large technology and infrastructure companies. The analysts identify and create points-of-interest from high-resolution satellite imagery, which requires specialised skills and a keen eye for detail.

According to General Manager Geoffrey Smith, ASA make sure that their people don’t fall through the cracks, and he says it’s all to do with having the right environment.

“Our data analysts are incredibility talented, and with a little help from us, their entire outlook is broadened,” Mr Smith said.

“In addition to training our future data scientists, GIS advisers, software engineers and senior programmers, we also provide wrap-around services to ensure each team member is comfortable in their physical environment, understands their role and can secure further study and career progression.

“Currently, over three-quarters of spatial data processing is sent offshore, which brings additional risks for clients.   But our young people with autism here in Australia have the talent and work ethic to manage these complex projects. ASA saw an opportunity to meet the growing demand for on-shore data services by employing faster and more precise data analysts who are under-represented in the workforce.”

ASA Junior Data Analyst, Sam, has just finished working on the Biarri Networks data preparation project where he and other ASA data analysts mapped new fibre optic cable networks in South Africa. He says he is loving his first job and being able to work in a team.

“I have gained experience in working with a range of different people with different backgrounds and industry experience, which has also improved my people skills in general,” Sam said.

“I have learnt multiple software applications, mainly in the spatial field as well as some in machine learning.”

As for the best part of coming to work at ASA each day, Sam says he enjoys the visual element of his work.

“I like that every day I will be exploring and analysing a new location in the world.”

His advice for new ASA employees is simple: be patient.

“You may struggle to begin with, but with time, practice and experience, you will feel more confident!”

Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland has provided their adjoining office space to ASA for a peppercorn lease as part of its philanthropic focus to help improve outcomes for youth at risk.

To find out more about Australian Spatial Analytics, go to

Photo: Sam (second from left) sitting alongside some of his fellow Australian Spatial Analytics team members. 


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