When Delaware Governor Jack Markell first invited the Danish firm Specialisterne, and its CEO, Thorkil Sonne, to come to Delaware in 2012, he set up meetings with local technology companies to help the firm start a partnership. One of these companies was Computer Aid Inc. (CAI), a Newark-based IT firm, whose senior executive Ernie Dianastasis was intrigued by the project and its desire to want to create jobs for people with disabilities.
Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services Rita Landgraf said Dianastasis’ confidence in Specialisterne paid off for the state, as CAI worked with Specialisterne to bring people with disabilities into jobs that benefited state government.
“I just remember Ernie grabbing a hold of this and saying, ‘I think I can make this happen at CAI,’ and he did, very effectively, and the State of Delaware and my department has benefited greatly from that partnership,” Landgraf said.
Five years on, and Dianastasis is still partnered with Specialisterne, but through a new company that allows him to focus solely on creating jobs: The Precisionists.
“[Specialisterne] worked so well in terms creating jobs for people with autism, that I realized after doing that for a year or two, I thought to myself, ‘I would really like to focus the remainder of my career, the next 10 to 15 years, I’d like to focus on leveraging all that I’ve learned around technology and around business, but also with a mission towards creating jobs for people with disabilities,” Dianastasis said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to leverage strengths above things and create this wonderful national business.”
The Precisionists, a B Corp based off Market Street in Wilmington, was formed in July 2016. Dianastasis’ goal by forming The Precisionists is to get 10,000 jobs filled by people with disabilities by 2025.
The Precisionists uses the same four-week training program that it developed with Specialisterne, which revolves around group work with Lego Mindstorm robots. But while Specialisterne’s sole focus is individuals with autism, The Precisionists have branched out into other groups such as individuals with visual and hearing impairments, as well as disabled veterans.
Dianastasis said The Precisionists wanted to be able to work with veterans with all kinds of disabilities so that they had a better chance of finding a job.
“The fact is, there are a lot of them, it’s a large number, and when you’re talking about veterans, people immediately think of people that are physically disabled,” he said, “But there are a lot of veterans that are considered disabled because of more cognitive or emotional issues, which are really important as well to be able to provide and give them an opportunity to be successful in the professional work environment.”
The Precisionists are still in the building process, Dianastasis said, with the company looking for a site, possibly in Wilmington and Dover. The company is also looking to expand into new markets, and though Dianastasis couldn’t disclose the full details, he did say the two markets were in the south and west.
Overall, Dianastasis said that in order for people with disabilities to thrive in the job markets, steps must be taken by educators to make sure they’re fully prepared with the best possible training.
“STEM is a great area because if you think of autistic people, they have excellent capabilities to focus on accuracy, discipline, repeatable activity, detail, precision, things that are really important for doing work in the STEM fields and industries,” he said. “I think what will really help is if we all work together and getting to the kids earlier and putting the right programs in place to be that much further along to be hired by The Precisionsts and put in the job market.”