A sub-brand of Aspire Ireland, Aspire Productions is a social enterprise that gives real-world experience with the clients such as Bloosom Ireland or Specialisterne Ireland to people with Aspergers Syndrome vital experience, training and education in animation and creative advertising. Encouraging their employees to get jobs in the industry that is notoriously difficult to break into. We spoke to Steven Murray Business Development Manager in Aspire Productions and Melissa Stone Chairperson of Aspire Ireland to find out more.
1. If someone hasn’t heard of you, describe Aspire Production? What do you do?
Aspire Productions is a Social Enterprise providing career development opportunities to adults with a diagnosis (or suspected diagnosis) of Asperger Syndrome or Autism, and who want to work in the media industry.
2. What was your background before you came on board with the team? Before joining Aspire Productions I had worked various freelance jobs across the media industry and also as a carer for a family member.
As a social enterprise, what is the company’s mission to change society? Our mission is to address the issue of unemployment in the autism community by highlighting the talents and gifts those on the spectrum have, providing them with opportunities to contribute to the work environment, and demonstrating that those in the autism community are just as capable as anyone else of excelling in any industry they choose to work in
4. It’s unusual for a company to encourage their employees to apply to other companies! What success have you had in this?
We are passionate about supporting the growth of the individuals we have worked with, and have had two of our recruits move on to work in major Irish animation studios.
5. What barriers do your employees and user base face in gaining employment?
We understand that employers are often unsure of how to support the needs of those on the spectrum. For example, autistic people/people with autism might have problems with the interview process, such as difficulty making or keeping eye contact, or might not be suited to “getting thrown in at the deep end” at work, which regularly happens on your first on-set experience.
6. What are some of your favourite campaigns that you worked on since joining the company?
Some of my favourite jobs we have done have been the music video we shot and edited in aid of the Rainbow Railroad and a training video we made for Blossom Ireland, teaching people with intellectual disabilities independence skills (in this case grocery shopping)
7. What’s changed for the company since Covid-19 pandemic?
With the onset of Covid-19, we have had to cease all on set productions, and have had to pivot our attention to the types of job that could be done by our recruits from home. Animation, music production and graphic design are all examples of these.
8. How have you supported the employees since then?
We have continued engaging with our recruits in a more one to one way over zoom. Also holding multiple online social events each week from general chats to gaming sessions and we are starting to hold movie nights to make sure that our team feels supported and doesn’t lose out on the social aspect of coming into our office.
9. What are some of the companies in the Diversity and Inclusion that you have worked with or have a good relationship with?
Blossom Ireland was both delightful to work with and so helpful and understanding of our team and their additional needs. We also have a long relationship and formal partnership with Specialisterne, and regularly refer people to each other where opportunities arise to do so.
10. How can the government increase the support available to neurodiverse people in gaining future employment?
Training schemes are needed for all involved in my opinion not just for people to improve their interviewing skills but for those doing the interviews on how to make people feel more comfortable before and during the process. Management training programmes are also needed to bring awareness of small accommodations which can be made and which make a huge difference not only to a neurodiverse person, but typically benefit all of their staff.