New career pathways for neurodivergent people in data and engineering are set to open following a $5 million blended finance boost for one of Australia’s largest and fastest-growing work integration social enterprises.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF) today announces its new partnership with Australian Spatial Analytics (ASA), in which PRF will provide $2.5 million in grant funding and $2.5 million in impact investment to support ASA in its national scaling plans.

ASA is a spatial and data analytics company that is committed to creating inclusive and safe workplaces for neurodivergent people. With a team that is 80 per cent neurodivergent, ASA helps solve Australia’s skills shortages and data sovereignty concerns by accessing an untapped pool of talented and motivated people who perform essential work that otherwise occurs offshore.

Young neurodivergent people face an unemployment rate of 34 per cent, with hiring and interview barriers representing a common challenge to securing meaningful and stable employment. ASA’s team works with its young people to employ their specialised cognitive talents such as attention to detail, pattern recognition and memory retention, to deliver high-quality spatial data services to a range of clients in the public and private sector.

This new funding partnership model prioritises long-term sustainability and self-sufficiency for social enterprises. ASA will use the capital to increase its impact across Australia, facilitating the employment of more than 100 young autistic and neurodivergent adults across five locations and providing alternative career pathways into industries with critical skills shortages.

PRF’s Head of Employment Josephine Khalil said ASA was a strong example of social enterprises’ ability to simultaneously address key social issues, such as meaningful employment for people with disability, while tackling national dilemmas like skills shortages.

“Impact investing is one of our key tools, alongside traditional grant-making, for building stronger social enterprises and driving greater impact in Australia,” she said.

“ASA has built a successful business that exists to create jobs and an environment that enables its young people to thrive. We’re proud to partner with them in this new model to help unlock more opportunities for neurodivergent people, and to create a more dynamic and inclusive Australian labour market.”

Australian Spatial Analytics CEO Geoff Smith said the funding would support significant growth of the social enterprise, which has so far provided career pathways for over 150 young neurodivergent adults who may otherwise be unemployed.

“This blended finance partnership is monumental for ASA and the work-integrated social enterprise sector,” he said.

“It shows that with some tailored support, social enterprises like ASA can mature past the grant cycle and create systemic impact over the long term. ASA is proud to be a case study for this innovative approach.”

The partnership comes amid a growing government focus on both social enterprises and the need for more meaningful support for people with disability. The Australian Government’s recent white paper, Working Future, commits to backing the social enterprise sector to provide more employment and training opportunities for Australians facing disadvantage. In addition, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability recently released its final report, with 222 recommendations to the Government, including on employment for people with disability.