Adults with autism oftentimes have difficulty finding work. In fact, young adults with autism are significantly less likely to work for pay outside the home as compared to others with learning disabilities or speech and language impairments (58% vs. 90%), according to The Guardian. But advocates stress that with proper training, a person with autism can successfully enter the workforce and has unique strengths that lend to succeeding in certain industries. Now, a few major companies are offering their support, helping individuals with autism thrive in technology jobs.
AT&T, software consulting firm Meticulon and technology service provider MindSparks Technologies are the primary drivers behind a new initiative to train and employ people with autism in technology positions. The program, called The 5,000 Initiative, has a goal to secure 5,000 jobs for individuals with autism by 2020. To achieve this mission, the consortium partnered with LaunchAbility, a job placement agency working with adults with cognitive disabilities. Kathryn Parsons, chief executive officer of LaunchAbility, says technology jobs are a "natural fit for people with autism because this line of work requires intense focus, extreme attention to detail and the ability to do a task over and over again." Training through the program helps individuals learn what is appropriate in the workplace as well as tips on email etiquette and interview skills. The ultimate goal is to not only train and employ workers with autism, but ensure they remain employed. And LaunchAbility has a great track record; nearly half who have gone through the program have been employed for more than five years, while a third have been in their jobs more than 10 years.
A diverse and inclusive workforce is a sign of a progressive and responsible company, and businesses that invest in training and opportunities for individuals with disabilities send a positive signal not only to other employees, but also to stakeholders and consumers. And companies that prioritize hiring individuals from all types of backgrounds stand to gain even more, as diversity also fuels market growth, helps attract top talent and fosters an environment of creativity and innovation.