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Workforce success for employees on the autism spectrum

Employment for individuals on the autism spectrum is an increasingly important societal issue. The unemployment rate for autistic individuals of working age is 31.6 per cent, which is over three times the rate of unemployment among people with a disability, and approximately six times that among people without a disability. Therefore, in 2017, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) 2017 launched its Rise@DHHS program.

Rise@DHHS program

Rise@DHHS is an award-winning program created by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with autism non-profit social enterprise Specialisterne Australia, as the State Government’s first attempt to provide leadership in its own employment practices by employing people on the autism spectrum. This pilot program has been evaluated by a team of researchers from La Trobe’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) and LBS. The full report can be downloaded here.

Lead author Dr Rebecca Flower, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at OTARC, noted “The traditional job interview is a common barrier for people with autism, who may communicate differently to non-autistic people. Candidates in the Rise@DHHS program were given a chance to showcase their skills in a supportive environment, as opposed to talking about them.”

The results

The research report summarises in-depth interviews with the eight people on the autism spectrum who were hired for the pilot program, as well as surveys and focus groups with co-workers and managers. The research identified the most successful aspects of the Rise@DHHS program, including changes to the recruitment, selection, and onboarding processes. Furthermore, focus groups with existing DHHS employees indicated that the program has had a positive impact on themselves as individuals, stating they felt like they had grown personally through their involvement with the initiative and were now mindful of things like clarity in communication.  

The impact of employment on individuals

Most importantly, the research demonstrates the tremendous impact that employment has for individuals with autism. Prior to working as a Rise@DHHS employee, Adam Walton had spent long periods of time either unemployed, or in short-term, casual roles. When discussing the program, he noted:

“It’s been a lifechanging experience for me, being able to have a routine and more structure in my life. I feel like I’m finally contributing to society. I don’t feel like I’m a burden.”

Rise@DHHS employee Adam

Recommendations

The researchers identified several recommendations, including that workplaces need to prioritise diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. “The findings of this research align nicely with other studies, showing that it’s really all about understanding autism, supportive management, and including people. This is a great thing, not only for individuals with autism, but for the companies employing them,” Dr Flower said.

LBS researcher and study co-author Dr Jennifer Spoor points out that “employing people with autism often requires only small changes to management practices, such as making communication clear or being flexible about sound or lighting in the workplace, which often benefits all employees.”

 

Funding for the research was provided by DHHS and by an Engagement Income Growth Grant from LTU's School of Psychology and Public Health.
More information on the program and the research can be found in the OTARC report here. You might also like LTU News’ article Workforce success for autistic employees.

La Trobe is getting employability right

LBS researcher Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh examined the experience of graduates from China who returned to China to seek employment after completing tertiary education at La Trobe University. Her research found that students from China felt that having studied at La Trobe University made them more employable in China.

The first study

Jasvir conducted in-depth interviews with 19 Chinese alumni from La Trobe University who had returned to China to work. About 70 to 80% of Chinese international students studying in Australia return to their home country to seek employment opportunities (ICEF Monitor, 2016) and previous research has suggested that Chinese employers prefer local graduates. However, Jasvir’s study found that when it comes to having necessary work-ready skills such as leadership, communications and influencing skills, those who have spent some time studying in Australia have the upper hand.

Jasvir mentioned that the Chinese graduates she interviewed were “impressed with the level of investment Australian universities like La Trobe are making into developing international students’ employability skills through part-time work experiences at La Trobe or outside the campus, volunteering opportunities and internships.”

“Programs such as La Trobe’s Career Ready Advantage, designed with Australia’s leading employers to help develop more employable graduates, are clearly working”

Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh

The interviewed graduates also said that having an overseas Masters’ degree was particularly beneficial when it came to getting jobs in China, and some had studied further to obtain chartered certification such as Chartered Professional Accounting.

The second study

Jasvir conducted a second study looking at the experience of international students studying in China, with a special focus on development of employability skills. Jasvir interviewed 30 international students, largely from Africa and Malaysia, who had studied at the highly-ranked Wuhan and Tsinghua universities in China. “While these two prestigious Chinese universities score high in terms of academic results, the students I interviewed recognised that content knowledge is not enough”, said Jasvir. Students were expected to find their own work placements and were given little support by the university support services. Thus, in contrast to Australian universities, the second study found that Chinese universities do not place much emphasis on developing employability skills of international students.

Producing employable graduates

Both of Jasvir’s studies have shown that Chinese universities need to increase their focus on helping domestic and international students develop the necessary skills required for entering the competitive and rapidly changing world of work. The good news is that La Trobe University is getting it right when it comes to producing employable graduates!

Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh is an award-winning lecturer at the LBS’ Department of Management, Sport and Tourism. Jasvir has been researching on academic success, teaching and learning as well as employability issues relating to international students from Malaysia, Australia and China. Jasvir has received several top La Trobe University grants and has published in quality higher education journals as well as presented her work worldwide.

This blog was originally published by LTU News.

Meet our new Adjunct Professor Alan Farley

LBS is delighted to announce that professor Alan Farley has been appointed as Adjunct Professor in the La Trobe Business School. Alan has a long and distinguished career in Australian universities, as diverse as Director of Teaching and Learning and Chief Financial Officer, including PVC (Planning and Finance), Assistant Provost, Executive Dean, Head of Department and Associate Dean (Education).

Alan’s original training is in Economics, Econometrics and Management Science but most of his teaching career was spent in Accounting and Finance departments. His research effort is extensive and diverse. He has published in leading international journals across the fields of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Accounting, Finance, and Management Science.

His work with industry has supported his research. Alan is the only Australian academic to make the final of an international competition to recognise the world’s best implementation of Management Science in a given year for work done with Kodak Australia. He has held positions outside universities such as president of the Australian Council for Online and Distance Education, member of the Victorian Admission Centre Management Committee, Australian University Quality Authority auditor and member of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Authority Panel of Experts.

Business Newsroom asked Alan what he is bringing to LBS and how he’ll be approaching his role as adjunct professor:

My key attributes that will benefit the La Trobe Business School are my knowledge of the Australian Higher Education sector and my breadth of expertise, with special emphasis on knowledge in quantitative research methodology.
As an Adjunct Professor I will be available for consultation with research students and staff and will present workshops on quantitative research techniques. I will also undertake joint research with staff from the School.

LBS welcomes Alan on board!

Mind the perception gap: Reconceptualising supply chain performance management

In the service industry, success often favours those who deliver higher performance and value in the eyes of their partners and/or end-customers. The performance of the delivered service, however, may not always meet the expectations of the buyer, or the service quality may be evaluated differently by the supply chain partners, leading to a performance shortfall in both cases.

Perception gap

A perception gap refers to the differences in perception among the stakeholders regarding any aspect of the supply chain relationship. But how are such gaps associated with the performance of service supply chains and any resultant performance gaps? How can service supply chain partners identify, quantify, and eliminate the perception gaps?

Above research questions have recently been studied in an international and multi-institutional collaboration project conducted by LBS researcher Dr. Sean Asian, Dr. Dawei Lu (University of Warwick), Dr. Gurdal Ertek (Abu Dhabi University), and Mete Sevinç (Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation, Netherlands). Their results have been published as a research paper, entitled “Mind the perception gap: An integrative performance management framework for service supply chains”, in the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management (Impact factor 2017: 4.215).

Improving supply chain performance

In this multi-disciplinary project, the project team collaborated with a leading UK-based insurance company to improve their supply chain performance in three phases: First, they investigated the existence of perception and performance gaps along the supplier-buyer interface: Second, examined the association between the perception gaps and the performance: And, third, constructed an integrative framework that factors-in the perception gap into service supply chains and measures them through meta-KPIs.

The presented research confirmed that perception gaps do exist and can have significant association with the performance gaps along the service supply chain. The development of the presented analytical framework for quantifying the gaps extends the theoretical boundary of supply chain performance management and offers a new window to both researchers and practitioners.

Implications

Although the data tested and analysed in this research were sourced from the insurance service industry, the nature of the findings are general and can contribute to a more extensive body of knowledge from which new theories specific to supply chain management may be induced. For example, the presented methodology can be used as the computational engine behind the supply chain initiatives that aim at the identification and elimination of perception gaps. This ultimately can enable them to reduce the perceived gaps to an insignificant level through collaborative efforts, such as sharing key relevant information and synchronizing their perceptions.

Another possible implication is the analysis of data from diverse real-world cases and the observation of patterns across them. While big data is ubiquitously available and data science tools are becoming mainstream, the potential for similar research is practically unlimited. For example, unexplored primary data readily available in companies’ ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning), as well as additional secondary data, can be analysed through exploratory, descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive data science techniques to observe phenomena, propose hypotheses, and develop a plethora of general theory that is highly relevant, actionable, and applicable. This research can serve as an example, especially in the supply chain performance management literature, of how such a combined study can be conducted.

 

Dr. Sean (Sobhan) Asian is a management scientist and operations researcher, with special interests in exploring and solving complex Supply Chain Management, Logistics, and Transportation problems. To further discuss this research and explore any possible collaboration please directly contact Dr. Sean Asian (S.Asian@latrobe.edu.au).
 
  • The full paper can be accessed as: Dawei Lu, Sobhan Asian, Gurdal Ertek, Mete Sevinc, (2018) “Mind the perception gap: An integrative performance management framework for service supply chains”, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPDLM-09-2017-0302
  • Research collaboration between LBS and Thuongmai University

    Happy New Year! Our first article of 2019 is about Professor Simon Pervan‘s visit to the Thuongmai University, in Hanoi. He was there to discuss research collaboration and to deliver a presentation on future research focus in business, and the publication of academic research. The visit was hosted by Professor Hoang Viet Nguyen, who is the Head of Department of Research Administration. Professor Viet is overseeing a strong program in research development and he and Professor Pervan discussed opportunities for staff at both La Trobe Business School and Thuongmai to collaborate on future research projects.

     Stay tuned for more information about these opportunities.

    Professor Simon Pervan giving a presentation at Thuongmai University

    Social Robot Matilda is a big hit in classrooms

    LBS researcher Dr  Seyed Mohammed SadeghKhaksar was recently interviewed by Channel 9 News Melbourne on his research with social robot Matilda.

    Matilda

    Matilda was originally co-created by LBS’ Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovations (RECCSI) in partnership with Japan’s NEC Corporation and Kyoto University. Matilda is a communication robot with emotional intelligence. Matilda can recognise human voices and faces, detect emotions, read and recite text, dance and play music. It can read a person’s feelings by the tone in their voice and interact accordingly. Matilda was previously used successfully in aged care research. Early this year, RECCSI teamed up with Waratah Special Developmental School to trial Matilda as a classroom companion.

    Matilda in the classroom

    The current research aims to investigate how social robots like Matilda can emotionally and socially engage students with special needs (e.g. children with autism), enable them with personalised services and empower them to live more independently in classrooms. Matilda’s personalised services could be used to create a more effective teaching environment and provide tailored support to teachers and students. Dr Khaksar is the Research Project Manager and said that “this study is about assisting both teachers and students, especially those who have special needs, who face particular challenges in their learning environments.”

    According to Dr Khaksar, the results are positive. “As soon as the kids see Matilda in the classroom, their faces light up and they become more interested and engaged”. Matilda is patient, non-judgemental and interactive which allows students to form a bond with it. “The robot can speak to students, read and act out characters in books, as well as set tasks. But it can also tirelessly repeat things hundreds of times if necessary”. Matilda is not only enabling students to develop better communication, but also social and cognitive skills.

    Social Innovation

    RECCSI Research Manager and Associate Professor Debbie Chu said this type of technology is in high demand. “La Trobe is at the forefront in creating solutions for social innovation. Our hope is that La Trobe’s robotic technology, which delivers emotional assistance and companionship over physical services, will be employed widely across Australia”.

    Watch the interview: here

    Some information in this blog was originally published by LTU News

    LBS’ success at the LTU Awards 2018

    Several LBS staff have been recognised for their excellent teaching and research during the La Trobe University Staff Awards 2018.

    Teaching and Learning Awards

    Two staff members received a citation for outstanding contributions to student learning. Dr Jasvir Nachatar Singh received the citation for transforming a university-wide subject, Leadership: What Matters (MGT3LWM), to inspire leadership capacities in undergraduate third year students.

    Dr Jasvir Nachatar Singh

    Dr Petrus Usmanij received a citation for providing innovative learning and teaching of real business context in capstone subjects through experiential learning and real-life problem solving.

    Dr Petrus Usmanij

    Research Excellence Awards

    Dr Daswin De Silva received the Excellence in Research Award (Mid-Career Researcher). The award is in recognition of Daswin’s outstanding contribution to La Trobe University through his work in the La Trobe Business School contributing to digital disruption, significant research income, high impact, collaborative publications and research supervision and leadership.

    Dr Daswin De Silva

    LBS congratulates Jasvir, Petrus and Daswin on their impressive achievements!

    LBS Innovation Series: World Class Masterclass(es)

    This week the LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum (#18IFAF) takes place. There are presentations and key notes by internationally recognised academics and several industry heavyweights such as Allan McCallum, Chair of Cann Group, James Fazzino, former CEO Incitec Pivot, and Andrea Koch from Principle Agtech. In addition, there are three world class masterclasses that you can attend:

    • Kok-Leong (KL) Ong, currently an Associate Professor in Business Analytics at LBS is giving a masterclass in Data Analytics for Food and Agribusiness. The session provides an introduction into how digital technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the digital supply chain can create opportunities to utilise data to help drive the food and agribusiness industry. KL will talk about the various digital technologies that could be used in the industry, how these technologies can enable data analytics to generate important and timely decision support and provide existing application examples.
    • Alex Maritz is LBS’ Professor of Entrepreneurship and gives a masterclass on Disruptive Lean Business Model Design. The masterclass is on the latest international trends of Innovation in AgTech, and the role of disruptive lean business model design in Agtech Start-ups. Alex will discuss areas of collaboration for impact and how innovations in FinTech are unlocking opportunities in AgTech, coupled with the importance of continual iteration in lean start-up methods.
    • Aniruddha (Ani) Desai, a Research Professor and Director of La Trobe University’s Centre for Technology Infusion, provides a masterclass on Industry 4.0 for Agribusiness. The session will provide an overview of Industry 4.0 and the global trends in advanced manufacturing and automation in context of Agribusiness that are set to transform the industry. Supported by case studies from both large and small scale operations, Ani will focus on technologies that will empower future connected farms and next generation production equipment from automated tractors and machines to farm to fork traceability and logistics technology of the future.

    The only downside is that the masterclasses run concurrently – meaning you can only choose one to attend!

    World class learning combined with exceptional value for money opportunities like this don’t come along very often. Register now to avoid disappointment: http://bit.ly/LBS_18IFAF.

     

    This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School. The series was developed after the successful National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe Business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L in 2017.

    More blogs about #18IFAF:

    More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:

    LBS held a successful Early Career Researcher Workshop

    Last week, Dr Shalinka Jayatilleke and Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh organised a highly successful Early Career Researcher (ECR) Workshop. It was a full day of information sessions, panel discussions and hands-on workshops with a focus on grants and funding both internally and externally. Twenty-two ECRs from LBS in Bundoora and the regions attended. LBS has the highest number of ECRs in the university meaning events such as this one are incredibly important for building a research community.

    Some of the staff involved in the ECR Workshop

    The day started with a session on building and advancing a research career through grants: The importance of grants, how to apply for grants, the opportunities and limitations of grants, but also the reality of grant success. Grant applications are highly competitive and although a researcher´s grant might meet all the criteria, it may not be competitive enough against other applications. There was a panel session around what grant assessors want and the key components of a grant application.

    A panel discussion with A/Prof Kate Webster, Prof Axel Schulz, Prof Sue Martin and Prof Lawrie Zion on grant applications

    Very insightful was the Building Collaborations and Industry Engagement session on how to build collaborations with both industry and non-industry partners and what support there is available at LTU and LBS in terms of initiating industry engagement.

    Prof Matt Nicholson discussing the importance of grants

    The session on How to Keep a Track Record was about keeping an up to date CV that can be a direct feed to a grant application. The day ended with a very positively-minded and hands-on workshop allowing ECRs to review their current research progress and success, but also discuss their plans for the future and how to actually plan for the next step.

    LBS Innovation Series: Join experts in a discussion about the future of food production and agribusiness

    How often do you get to hear from world leading robotics and autonomous systems, cereal biology, food quality and crop productivity, and nutrition, digestion and nutrient bioavailability experts talking about the implications of their research for the future of food production and agribusiness? Not very often is the short answer.

    This is the opportunity being offered at the 2018 LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum at La Trobe University on the 15th and 16th of November.

    Internationally recognised experts

    There are presentations from Professor Peter Corke from Queensland University of Technology, Professor Harsharn Gill from RMIT University, and Professor Tony Bacic from La Trobe University, each internationally recognised experts in their field.

    • Professor Peter Corke is a distinguished professor of robotic vision at QUT, and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision. His research is concerned with enabling robots to see, and the application of robots to mining, agriculture and environmental monitoring. Peter is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, a fellow of the IEEE, founding and associate editor of the Journal of Field Robotics, founding multi-media editor and editorial board member of the International Journal of Robotics Research, member of the editorial advisory board of the Springer Tracts on Advanced Robotics series.
    • Professor Harsharn Gill is Head of the Food Research & Innovation Centre at RMIT University. He has over 25 years experience in leading and managing food, nutrition and health R&D in private and public sectors. Prior to joining RMIT, he held senior R&D leadership roles in Australia and New Zealand, including Research Director at the Department of Primary Industries Victoria; Chair of Functional Foods & Human Health at Massey University, and Director of Milk & Health Research Centre at Fonterra, New Zealand.
    • Professor Tony Bacic is Director of the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture & Food (LIAF). He is an internationally recognized leader in plant biotechnology, with research focused on the structure, function and biosynthesis of plant cell walls and their biotechnological application as well as the application of functional genomics tools in biological systems. Prior to joining La Trobe (1996 to 2017) Tony was Personal Chair in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne and leader of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls team (2011-2017). His other leadership roles include Director Bio21 Molecular Sciences & Biotechnology Institute, Chair ARC Biological Sciences and Biotechnology & LIEF (infrastructure) Panels and Chair Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Panel of the ERA (Excellence in Research Australia).

    Besides these three, the forum presents many industry heavyweights as well such as Allan McCallum, Chair of Cann Group, James Fazzino, former CEO Incitec Pivot, and Andrea Koch from Principle Agtech.

    Agricultural technology and science revolution

    The agriculture industry is on the edge of a technology and science revolution and each of these outstanding individuals will share their research and discuss its application as a driver for the changing dynamics of the global food production and agribusiness.

    However, more than a range of presentations, the 2018 LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum promotes two-way knowledge transfer and dialogue, interactive panels, case studies, opportunities for networking, masterclasses, and direct access to cutting edge science and technology experts.

     

    Why not be part of this rare opportunity? You can learn more about the Forum and register by following this link:

    www.latrobe.edu.au/events/all/innovation-in-food-and-agribusiness

     

    This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School. The series was developed after the successful National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe Business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L.

    More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:

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