Finding a job can be difficult for anyone. For those on the autism spectrum, finding a job can have its own unique challenges. While autistics have great talents and skills that employers desire, some autistic jobseekers struggle to communicate their abilities using the current networking and job posting platforms. Whether it be the general site interface or abstract language, traditional employment websites can be difficult for many with autism to navigate.
Autism Speaks is sponsoring the Autism Employment Connector Challenge to provide autistic job seekers with a solution to aid in the search and application process to potential employers. With the power of your big ideas, we can remove the barriers and tap into the strengths of this willing labor force.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, sensory perceptions, movement, executive function, speech and nonverbal communication. The CDC estimates that 1 in 45 adults (2.21%) in the United States is autistic, or approximately 5,437,988 Americans. Annually an estimated 70,000 teens transition out of school-based programs and hopefully move into the employment sector.
Autistics can bring unique strengths to the workplace. Evidence shows that autistic employees helped their employers
- Increase productivity and market reach,
- Solve problems creatively with tremendous cost savings,
- Reduce employee turnover by half
- And enrich the diversity of their workforce
But before autistic jobseekers can be employed, they encounter challenges at the start of the hiring process. Current employment networking and job posting platforms can be challenging for autistic people. Employers traditionally rely on jobseekers to communicate their abilities in text and according to cultural rules that might not be easily understood by people with autism.
Current employment platforms assume everyone communicates the same way and understands the unwritten rules of searching for a job. Job postings may be written in ambiguous language with little concrete meaning that is important to people who think and process information differently. As a result, these current platforms don’t accommodate the differences in communication or information processing that some autistic people may face.
Working with people on the autism spectrum, Autism Speaks has identified this communication mismatch as a structural problem in the hiring process and as a barrier to employment for hundreds of thousands of autistics.
When a jobseeker’s skills and employer’s needs can’t be matched due to communication and information processing disconnects employers miss out on a more diversely talented applicant pool.
As a result, autistics are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. This lack of employment can lead to a history of underemployment starting early in a career, lower lifetime earnings and wealth creation and mental health issues. We can dramatically transform this situation by creating an accessible system or platform that allows for the exchange of relevant information in autism-friendly interfaces with language that autistics can more readily process and that employers can easily provide.
Autism Speaks is searching for big ideas to address this situation. The challenge of this project is to develop a solution that helps increase accessibility for autistic job seekers to search employment opportunities and navigate the application process with the end goal to connect with potential employers.
This requires identifying and removing structural biases that currently exist in the hiring process. We welcome entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, students, existing employment platform services, staffing experts, and anyone eager to include cognitive, sensory, and intellectual differences into the Diversity and Inclusion movement to take on this challenge and create a solution.
We are looking for a solution that will facilitate functional and results-driven connections between employers and autistics.