Albany Discussion Forum Addresses Workplace Diversity

autism in the workplace

As ICare4Autism gears up for its Global Workforce Initiative programs, more organizations are cropping up who recognize the importance of lowering the autism unemployment rate.

On Tuesday, March 17, The Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region sponsored a forum addressing workplace opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum. Directed at employers, the workshop emphasized the advantages of workplace diversity.

One topic discussed included the interview process, which can be extremely difficult for those on the spectrum since they are quickly judged on their social skills. The speakers also addressed the benefits of recruiting and training qualified candidates on the autism spectrum, who often possess degrees in science and technology but fail to snag jobs in their field because of their misunderstood condition.

Marcia Scheiner, the event’s keynote speaker, is the founder of the Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership. Scheiner spoke at ICare4Autism’s 2014 International Conference about ASTEP, which was created to bridge the gap between highly skilled, educated candidates with Asperger’s Syndrome and a sustainable job. According to Marcia, 35% of individuals with Asperger’s, a form of autism, have sought higher education. Some estimates assert that more than over 85% of “aspies” are unemployed or underemployed.

But this lack of success in the workplace does not typically result from poor job performance- in fact, 80-90% of people on the spectrum are terminated from their jobs because of social missteps. The lack of autism awareness in the workplace, coupled with an unwillingness to disclose the disorder, creates a roadblock in front of otherwise highly capable employees.

Also attending the conference were representatives from a newly-formed non-profit called Spectrum Employment Services. Jason Kippen, director of the program, works to seek out educated candidates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math and then match them with appropriate job openings.

Kippen is currently working with a talented young man who earned a computer science degree from the University of Albany. Although he graduated with a 3.2 grade point average, Kippen says, he is currently stocking shelves at Walmart since he has had no luck finding work in computer science.

“He is woefully underemployed,” Mr Kippen said to the Albany Business Review. “He has so much to offer.”

Written by Hannah Jay