EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA)

The history of the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA) is relatively brief as I write. We are currently running our second set of classes. This page is to explain to you how the ETA came about and how it got to where it is currently. I decided that I wanted to put this in a static location. I think it is useful reference for anyone wanting an overview and for any future blogging on ETA.

For a long time I had an idea about running workshops that would help unemployed people gain skills that would help them find employment. Around mid 2016 I decided I had the opportunity to make this happen. It seemed like a good idea to me and I wrote to a number of organisations. I’m not going to name any of them but there was zero response. Maybe I just wrote to the wrong people in each company. I was surprised, and more than a little disheartened. Fortunately I heard about EPIC Assist and reached out to them. It turned out to be a matter of fortuitous timing. William Elliott from EPIC Assist was also thinking about how they could branch out and get their clients employed in IT. William worked with a lot of people on the autism spectrum, he felt they had an affinity for IT and testing would fit many of their capabilities. Within a week William and I were chatting, at some depth, while sipping on lattes. We clearly wanted to make this happen. People often ask me why we chose to work with autistic people. My response is we didn’t set out to find autism, it found us, and it has been an amazing meeting.

When I started reaching out to companies I had a chat with a (now very close) friend, Lee Hawkins. Lee and I hadn’t known each other all that long but we had a lot in common and developed a friendship pretty quickly. Lee is one of the most giving, community based people I know. He’s certainly influenced some of the ways I think about community (and other things). I told Lee what I wanted to do and that it was too big for just me. I needed someone whom I could trust and was motivated by the idea. Motivation was key because our time and effort would be donated. Lee was on board in a flash, fully committed and eager.

From this point it was meetings with EPIC Assist, providing budget estimates (EPIC Assist cover all costs incurred), developing a strategy to find good candidates, finding a location for classes, and so on. Even the name was a point of some discussion. We finally settled on EPIC TestAbility Academy. Even the acronym, ETA, was cool. That capital “A” in “TestAbility” is not a typo. We really want to focus on the ability our folks bring with them. Eventually, after about 12 months of planning , talking, and syllabus creation ETA #1 commenced on April 3, 2017. We had 6 students, 5 of them stayed for the entire 12 weeks of the course.

In late 2017 EPIC Assist moved their involvement in ETA from their Queensland head office to their Melbourne office and Kym Vassilliou. It turned out to be an incredible move for ETA. We now had people on the ground at a local level. We had some difficulty finding candidates for ETA #1. With Kym on board our local reach blossomed and expanded. Kym brought a new enthusiasm and passion that has changed the ETA landscape. For ETA #2 we hit our maximum class size of 10 students and had to “wait list” others for our next ETA course. Kym is now actively seeking companies that will work with EPIC by providing placements and/or internships so that we can give our students real work experience and move them closer to employment.

The people that have, to date, helped make ETA a reality:

  • From EPIC Assist 2017 – William Elliott, Zach Zaborny, Craig Thompson (Craig is our specialist who helps us work successfully with our students. He’s a key component of ETA successes)
  • From EPIC Assist 2018 – Kym Vassilliou, Craig Thompson
  • Facilitators 2017 – Lee Hawkins, Paul Seaman, Scott Miles
  • Facilitators – 2018 – Lee Hawkins, Paul Seaman, Michele Playfair

Both Lee and I have written blogs about ETA:

Lee’s blogs:

My blogs: