Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Not a term that rolls off the tongue easily but increasingly big corporations such as Microsoft and SAP have launched programs to attract candidates with ASD for roles which require certain skill sets. ASD is the name for a range of conditions that affect the way a person sees the world, processes information and interacts with people. The term covers high-functioning autism such as Asperger’s.
Under-employment is high among autistic adults. Only 14% of adults with autism held paid jobs in their communities, according to the National Autism Indicators report published by Drexel University’s Autism Institute. The report looked just at those who had received state developmental disabilities services. About one-fourth of adults with ASD had community employment as a goal in their service plan.
It’s a similar story in the UK, where only 15% of autistic adults are in full-time employment. This compares with 57% of non-disabled people of working age in the UK, according to government statistics.
One of the first big corporates to recruit individuals with ASD was Microsoft which started its “Inclusive Hiring for People with Disabilities” program three years ago in the US.
“Our goal is to help reduce the unemployment rate for people with autism. People with autism are under-employed and we have roles that would be good for people on the spectrum,” explains Neil Barnett, director of inclusive hiring for the software giant.
Microsoft’s program recruits for technical roles such as a software engineer and data scientists. “We’re looking for individuals with attention to detail and problem-solving skills and that is a sweet spot in technical roles. Our current program is based in our headquarters in Redmond, Washington but we have plans to extend it outside the US,” said Barnett.
One of the after-effects of Microsoft’s program has been to encourage self-disclosure among existing employees, added Barnett.
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