Piggery Offers Chance to Shine

Published: 10 January 2017

Daniel Slavin

A Queensland piggery is hiring people with autism in a world-first trial.

Daniel Slavin, a trainee at SunPork, being interviewed about the program.
Image © 2017 The Project

A 2013 Australian survey by Autism Spectrum Australia found that just 54 percent of adults with Asperger’s or high-functioning autism had a paid job. It also found that a third of those who are employed want more support in the workplace. Luckily, SunPork’s piggery in Queensland has decided to dismiss traditional hiring practices, and has hired individuals on the autism spectrum.

David Grose is one of eight trainees, all of whom are on the autism spectrum. He said that being at the piggery “has been interesting, to say the least, as well as hard work and quite amazing…”

It’s part of a world-first trial to see if working in agriculture is a good fit for people with autism. There are no interviews and no resumes, just hands-on training. This is a common way of hiring people with autism in the IT field in the US. Companies such as Hewlett Packard and Microsoft are currently implementing similar programs.

19-year-old Daniel Slavin, another trainee, said that, “It’s very important for me to go through a practical process rather than an interview, because I can show my employers and supervisors what I can do in the workplace.”

Daniel travelled 1500 kilometres from Melbourne to work at the piggery, and it seems to be paying off.

Robert Van Barneveld, the CEO of the SunPork Group, believes that, “When you’re working with animals, having a really strong attention to detail is very important… and autistic people have that skill inbuilt.”

The program has proved incredibly successful. Seven of the eight trainees have been offered full-time work, which now means that 8 percent of their workforce is made up of people with autism.

The project leader, Dr Kirsty Richards, said it’s amazing to see “how the candidates have transitioned from people who were generally quite quiet, pretty reserved, not overly confident, to people who are just engaging at every level and are just so competent…”

With the program’s success, Sunpork Farms is also rolling this out in South Australia.

For more information, and to apply to work at SunPork, visit
http://au.specialisterne.com/autism-and-agriculture/