Securing your first full-time job as a young adult can be a stressful, often difficult process. Not only do you want to a job in the field of your choice, but you also have to think about how successfully the salary, benefits, and potential experience gained will accommodate your needs. For people diagnosed with autism, the stresses associated with searching for employment are heightened, mainly due to the communicative struggles related to their disorder.
Although autism can present challenges when searching for a job, it is increasingly becoming more of a desired trait in the eyes of hiring companies. Recently started within several large-scale companies, there have been initiatives started within several large-scale companies geared toward creating employment opportunities for autistic people who struggle to find work.
In 2013, German software maker SAP announced its intention to make people with autism 1% of its workforce (approximately 700 people) by 2020. The professional service firm EY launched a program aimed at hiring autistic individuals in their Philadelphia office, with the goal of expanding the program to other cities by 2018 (Zillman, 2016). In April 2015, Microsoft announced a pilot program that sought to hire autistic individuals at its Washington headquarters; their initiative has recently expanded to the United Kingdom.
These companies represent the growing interests within the corporate world to unlock the potential autistic young adults have to offer. SAP, EY, and Microsoft all turned to Specialisterne, a Danish company that trains people with autism for the workplace. These companies work alongside Specialisterne “to develop training and support programs for their interview candidates and new hires, in the hopes that these processes will eventually become organic” (Che, 2016). These training programs help management engage their potential hires, which is particularly important because people with autism can often misunderstand social cues. The desired outcome for Specialisterne is simple–make the workplace a more inclusive environment.
Aside from the necessary desire for a workplace that promotes inclusion and diversity, there is a genuine business interest in hiring autistic individuals. Lori Golden, who oversees EY’s accessibility programs, in recognizing the business motivations behind these hires, stated that people with autism “often have very strong mathematical and technical abilities” (Zillman, 2016). Golden also highlighted how autistic people can be incredibly detail-oriented, and comfortable with pattern recognition: two qualities that make them attractive candidates for work in a corporate environment.
The need for increased inclusion and opportunity for people with autism in the workforce is crucial, especially when the statistics regarding current unemployment rates for those with the disorder are taken into account. According to a report by A.J. Drexel Autism Institute released in 2015, young adults with autism had lower employment rates than people with other disabilities. Only 58% of autistic young adults in the study were employed, compared to 74% of young people with intellectual disabilities, and 95% with learning disabilities, an alarming gap of 16% and 37%, respectively (Singh, 2015). In addition, over two-thirds of young people with autism had neither a job nor educational plans during the first two years after high school, and this continued into the early 20s for a third of young adults with autism into their early 20s.
Despite these sobering statistics, the inclusive programs that companies like Microsoft and SAP have started in order to recruit autistic individuals are an encouraging step in the right direction. It is of utmost importance that our workforce is as accepting and fair as possible. Regardless of race, gender, age, and yes, disability, everyone should have equal opportunity to find employment. People with autism work hard to overcome obstacles that make it more challenging for them to find work, but once they overcome those obstacles, there needs to be opportunities waiting for them.
Che, J. (2016, March 29). Why More Companies Are Eager To Hire People With Autism. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/companies-hiring-people-with-autism_us_56e99cdfe4b065e2e3d82ab4
Singh, M. (2015, April 21). Young Adults With Autism More Likely To Be Unemployed, Isolated. Retrieved November 05, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/04/21/401243060/young-adults-with-autism-more-likely-to-be-unemployed-isolated
Zillman, C. (2016, October 26). Autistic? More Companies Say Add It to Your Resume. Retrieved November 05, 2016, from http://fortune.com/2016/10/26/autism-jobs-employment-ey/