Microsoft set to hire people with autism

Microsoft has announced plans to hire people with autism.

Working with specialist employment agency Specialisterne, which trains and finds positions for people diagnosed on the autism spectrum, the pilot program begins in May with 10 full-time positions in the company's Redmond, Wash., corporate headquarters.

"Microsoft is stronger when we expand opportunity and we have a diverse workforce that represents our customers," said Mary Ellen Smith, corporate vice president of worldwide operations who has a 19-year-old son diagnosed with autism, on the company blog.

"People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, each individual is different, some have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code," she wrote. "It's a talent pool that we want to continue to bring to Microsoft!"

This is not the first time that Microsoft has helped people with autism. In 2001, the company expanded its health benefits plan to cover a promising therapy for children with autism, a move adopted by Apple, Intel, Cisco, Oracle and Qualcomm, according to CNET. The company also educates employees on autism spectrum disorders and has hosted a hackathon to help develop ideas for tech tools to assist families dealing with autism.

The new hiring plan "represents only one of the ways we are evolving our approach to increase the diversity of Microsoft's workforce," Smith wrote. "We believe there is a lot of untapped potential in the marketplace and we are encouraged by the strong level of readiness from the vendors who cater to this segment."

CNET tech reporter Bridget Carey said she expects the latest move could also inspire other tech companies to follow Microsoft's lead, since you have "programs like Specialisterne to make it easier for companies to work with resources to find people in the workplace."

"It's great for Microsoft to kind of take that step and be a first here," she said.