New York — ASTEP — We recently shared a press release about the services that ASTEP (Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership) provides for the autism community. Founded in 2010, the organization has helped many companies in the hiring of individuals with autism.
The information on the ASTEP website states:
‘ASTEP aims to help employers create a more inclusive workplace environment for existing employees with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and similar autism spectrum profiles and to bring together employers and vocational support professionals to successfully recruit and integrate these individuals. ASTEP does this by Educating Employers & Building Relationships.’
After reading about all of the good work that ASTEP does, I wanted to learn more about the services that they provide and how they help young people who are on the autistic spectrum. I contacted ASTEP and they kindly answered the questions that I put to them.
Below you can read our interview with them.
Who had the original idea for ASTEP? How did it first start out?
Marcia Scheiner founded ASTEP in 2010, after “retiring” from a 25-year career in the financial services industry. Marcia is the parent of a 25-year old son with Asperger Syndrome, and when she was thinking about retiring, she knew she wanted to engage in a philanthropic endeavor that helped individuals on the autism spectrum. Marcia observed a disconnect between the educational levels and skill sets of young adults with Asperger’s and the understanding and competencies of corporations around employing these young adults. Today, 35% of 18-year olds with autism attend college, yet 75-85% of them remain unemployed or underemployed after graduation. ASTEP was created to bridge this gap. Marcia took her understanding of how large corporations operate and used it to create an organization that would work with employers to understand the business benefits of hiring individuals on the spectrum, prepare them to do so effectively and help them find qualified job candidates with Asperger’s and similar autism profiles.
How do employers approach you?
ASTEP engages with employers by utilizing a number of different avenues. Not dissimilar to a successful job search, most of our relationships with employers are the result of networking. ASTEP staff members have significant business experience, and we draw on our relationships to approach employers as well as obtain referrals. In the first few years, ASTEP spoke at over three dozen conferences on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, targeting our message to human resource and diversity and inclusion professionals. We have also had employers call ASTEP directly after reading about our work in articles or on our website.
What types of companies do you work with and how many?
ASTEP targets Fortune 500 businesses, but we have also worked with smaller companies that are committed to having a diverse workforce. To date, ASTEP has engaged with over 30 employers, ranging from companies like PwC and Barclays to others like Quirky and KIND Snacks.
What age range are the young people who are employed? How do they become involved in gaining employment?
ASTEP focuses mostly on entry-level professional positions, so the individuals we are seeking for employers tend to be recent college graduates. The programs we run target college students and recent college graduates. However, ASTEP is primarily an employer-focused organization. If an employer is seeking more experienced hires with Asperger’s or a similar autism spectrum profile, we will identify and recruit those specific candidates.