The market for IT jobs is very tight, but there are few opportunities for disabled workers. Avencod was founded in 2016 to address these two social challenges. Persons on the autism spectrum (Asperger’s syndrome) have above-average analytical capacity and attention to detail. Avencod has developed a method to enhance their employability. With support from Provence Promotion, Avencod set up shop in Marseille in March 2019 and is already working on IT projects for CMA CGM and Airbus Helicopters.
France suffers from a lack of computer scientists. According Syntec, it needs 15,000 to 20,000 developers and testers. Avencod provides a partial response by training IT specialists with autism spectrum disorder. “The team working under Professor David Da Fonseca, a psychiatry specialist at APHM, is conducting research on autism. They taught us about the neurodiversity and job needs of this demographic in Bouches du Rhône. These people do have difficulties integrating, but they have acknowledged intellectual aptitude and are engaged and rigorous with a very high capacity for analysis and a different way of seeing things,” explains Laurent Delannoy.
In 2016, after 35 years of experience in computer science, he and his wife Laurence Vandergue, created Avencod in Nice. This young, disability-friendly digital services company is supported by Dirrecte, Réseau Entreprendre, Orange Foundation and Malakoff Médéric Handicap. Its mission? Promote job placement for neurodiverse individuals (diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s) by teaching them the technical skills they need.
Companies spend two years with candidates before hiring them
“We hire people who are marginalized on the job market on open-ended employment contracts to ensure long-term careers. We help them build their skills for 18 months to two years so they can become excellent testers with the equivalent of a two- or five-year degree as they work an IT project. We make them employable for regular companies. That means we provide a solution for companies that, because of the Diversity Act, are now required to hire 6% disabled workers,” notes Laurent Delannoy. The IT projects the workers develop while at Avencod become a real opportunity for companies. Over two years, they get to experience the expertise of these employees before deciding to hire them.
On the strength of Avencod’s success in Nice and its integration into the French Tech ecosystem, the company wanted to expand its network in Provence. The Technoptic cluster at Château-Gombert opened its doors. “In Marseille, I found an extremely dynamic economic landscape. With the support of Provence Promotion and Marseille Innovation, we were able to grow our network and meet with the companies that matter. The help provided by Provence Promotion was critical to our search for office space, financing information and networking,” exclaims Laurent Delannoy.