Building a More Inclusive Workspace

In today’s competitive job market, companies are looking for ways to diversify their employee portfolios and bring in the best talents. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who have not been given the opportunity to utilize their unique skills. One non-profit organization in Michigan is looking to change that. Autism Alliance of Michigan strives to help individuals who are on the autism spectrum find quality jobs that allow them to use the skills they’ve gained through college.

In 2016, Autism Alliance of Michigan teamed up with Ford Motor Co. to employ over a dozen individuals in different fields including communications, engineering, and financing. Other employers across the country including General Motors and DTE Energy Co. have hired dozens of employees with autism. The CEO of Autism Alliance of Michigan emphasized that “there’s this untapped talent pool that we should be looking at to fill these jobs.”

Autism is a developmental disorder that can cause communication and behavioral challenges. This can lead to difficulty finding a job even with a college degree. The government does not specifically track unemployment rates within the autism spectrum community. However, according to The Detroit News, studies have shown it can be as high as 90%. Individuals who do get a job, often get put into positions that are not in their field of study.

The Detroit News, interviewed Kevin Roach who graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in electronic arts. This type of major focuses on using digital media software like Adobe Photoshop. However, after graduation Kevin was doing manual labor and felt that his talents were not being utilized. Fast forward two years, and Kevin is now working for Ford Motor Credit Co. LLC asa Junior Technical Renewal Analyst. The Autism Alliance of Michigan as well as other organizations provide support for companies that choose to partner with them. This way, if an employee needs support adjusting to a new work environment or new supervisor; they can be put in contact with a support member. This helps employees feel comfortable and accommodated while also allowing them to use their talents.

As a new generation emerges into the workforce, organizations are giving students with Autism a head start at finding a career they have a passion for. Project Search for example, is an initiative that has connected Detroit public schools’ students with disabilities to a broad range of jobs. This way, students are able to get support even before college. Initiatives like these, prove that there is value and importance to build a diverse employee base. There is a lot of potential that could mutually help companies with their workforce needs and individuals looking for a fulfilling job. Companies can help remove boundaries and contribute to their community by partnering up with university disability resource centers. These efforts can help build a more inclusive workforce.

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