ASTEP offers employers end-to-end solutions for hiring, onboarding and retaining employees with Asperger’s. These include an (1) assessment of the employer’s current diversity and inclusion practices and competencies around employing individuals on the spectrum; (2) identification of the employer’s hiring needs and determination of which positions might be appropriate for individuals on the spectrum; (3) preparation of a plan to develop the necessary organizational competencies to be a successful employer of individuals with Asperger’s (includes necessary education and training); (4) recruitment of individuals with Asperger’s; and (5) creating ongoing support for the new employee(s) and their managers through mentoring and other programs.
We work with each employer to customize our services to meet each employer’s needs. Many want to start with education and training — as part of broader diversity training efforts, for example — and then move into the recruiting aspects of what ASTEP can provide. We have also worked with employers to review their existing recruitment programs and make recommendations on how to expand/modify them, to make them more accessible to individuals with Asperger Syndrome.
Given the incidence rates of autism, all large employers have many employees with a personal connection to autism. Many of these employers sponsor Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for individuals with a connection to disability. ASTEP has presented to ERGs on topics related to autism that would be of interest to parents and/or relatives of someone on the spectrum. These presentations allow employers to provide valuable information to employees, building employee engagement and loyalty.
Can you share any success stories with us?
In 2011, an employer said to us: “We work with organizations like yours all the time, but we like to meet the population you represent before we commit to any programs.” This request led to one of our cornerstone programs — the Corporate Lecture Series. By the end of 2015, over 100 young adults with Asperger Syndrome will have had the opportunity to attend sessions with executives and human resource professionals from over 25 Fortune 500 companies, including PwC, EY, Barclays, Cisco, Omnicom Media Group, Turner Sports, LinkedIn, Louis Berger, DisneyABC Television Group, and NBCUniversal. Learning about the job search process and practicing their networking skills, at these events — held in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles to date — several of our young adults have obtained summer internships and seasonal work. We currently have one young man working as a life actuary at PwC and another working in the HR department of Louis Berger, the global engineering and construction company.
Of the roughly 80 Corporate Lecture Series graduates, 20 are now employed. Additionally, several companies have engaged in further initiatives with program participants. Earlier this year we completed our first pilot-mentoring program with LinkedIn. Five LinkedIn employees were each matched with a young adult who had completed our Corporate Lecture Series program. The goal was for the employee to coach the young adult on his or her job search. At the end of the six-month pilot, all of the participants had interviews for competitive positions in their field of choice, and one of the participants obtained a full-time job. We are developing similar mentoring programs with two other companies now as well.
What response have you got from parents?
The overall response we have received from parents is very positive. Many parents are accessing the vocational rehabilitation services available to support their children, but see few employers offering competitive employment.
One of the best ways for ASTEP to make a strong connection with an employer is through a parent of a child on the spectrum who is an executive (or employee) in that company, and willing to be our champion within their organization.
We encourage these young adults to do things for themselves. At the Orientation Session for the Corporate Lecture Series we hand out a list of Job Search Dos and Don’ts. The first rule is: “Do it yourself – if you know how to do it, or can figure out how to do it, do so. Mom and Dad won’t be able to go to work with you. Your job counselor won’t be able to go to work with you.” We actually don’t have a lot of interaction with the parents of the individuals we work with.
That being said, as parents of young adults with Asperger’s ourselves we understand the desire to be involved in helping our children achieve professional success. We receive many calls and emails from parents and relatives all over the world asking for assistance, services and support We always do our best to refer these individuals to local resources if we are unable to help.
How are you funded?
We get our funding from our Board of Directors, forward-looking corporate sources who believe autism is and ought be part of their hiring strategy, friends and families of those affected by autism, government grants and non-profit grant making institutions.
We plan to continue to leverage these voluntary contributions and build out a fee-for-service consulting model.
More information about ASTEP and the wonderful work that ASTEP does can be found on its website here: http://asperger-employment.org/
We would like to thank ASTEP for taking the time to answer our questions and we will keep you up to date with any new developments.