Employers Look for Autistic Individuals to Fill Skilled Positions; State Agency Helps with Training and Retention

A report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) states that “some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.” The article takes a look at one forward-thinking company, Germany-based SAP, a software company, has been actively looking to hire people with autism because the nature of some autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), which often include social deficits and repetitive behavior, makes them better at certain jobs than those without autism.

This effort could be an important step forward for these individuals because, according to disability experts, as many as 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed. While they may have skills that are desirable to employers, many autistic people have difficulty interacting in social settings, which makes job interviews problematic for them, to say the least.

The goal of SAP’s initiative is to hire about 650 people with autism by 2020. The company’s belief is that people with autism spectrum disorder tend to pay great attention to detail, which may make them well suited as software testers or debuggers.

Watch this Wall Street Journal Live video as “In the Lab” columnist Shirley Wang and SAP Managing Director Liam Ryan discuss the issue with WSJ reporter Sara Murray.

For more information, read the Wall Street Journal article, How Autism Can Help You Land a Job, by Shirley S. Wang.
The State of New Jersey has taken this idea a step further. As reported by the Independent, one of 10 Greater Media Newspapers community periodicals in Central NJ, the state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) provides services to help overcome the array of setbacks that bar people who have autism from forming mutually beneficial relationships with employers.

“If you’re an individual who has autism and that condition is a barrier to employment for a whole host of reasons and you want to become competitively employed, then we provide the services to support you finding, getting and keeping a job,” said Alice Hunnicutt, director of the DVRS. Last year, 140 counselors in 18 offices throughout New Jersey provided vital services to 35,000 individuals with all types of disabilities.

One of the initiatives implemented is “targeted hiring,” in which division officials prescreen a batch of candidates for a specific company, whose representatives then interview qualified individuals for open positions. One such effort for Toys R Us proved fruitful last year.

“After the targeted hiring, Toys R Us said they hired more people with disabilities in this state than anywhere else in the country,” Ms Hunnicutt stated.

And the assistance doesn’t end if and when the autistic individual finds a job; a job coach stays with the new employee person until they learn everything they need to be successful in that job.

New Jersey is an Employment First state, which means that division officials must go the extra mile to ensure that people with disabilities find competitive employment, making at least the minimum wage.

For more information, read Job search challenging for adults with autism, by Independent staff writer Jack Murtha. The article is part of the ongoing series of reports, “The Autism Puzzle: A New Jersey angle.”