There is a national shortage of employees who have computer skills. We know some ideal candidates: adults with Aspergers/Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Many adults with ASD have natural talents (attention to detail, editing eye, STEM skills) that could be perfect for technical work, but face disproportionate rates of unemployment due to a lack of training or direct experience. The SkillPath Project will train adults with ASD to do the technical work local companies need, resulting in a portfolio of work experience and competencies for employment.
1. Facilitate job exploration in 3 key technical careers
2. Provide training and support to learn each new technical skill set and find a good fit
3. Mutually benefit the business community by providing trained interns for a 3-month experience
Many adults with ASD are very gifted at using computers and Seattle is an area booming with tech companies and businesses. Some job roles do not require a specific college degree, but demonstration of a specific technological skill set. Unfilled positions become outsourced or understaffed due to the lack of a local trained workforce. With 50,000 adults with ASD turning 18 each year, there will be no shortage of great hires who want intellectually challenging work. We have a vision to create a start-up/talent incubator that trains adults with ASD in high-demand technical skill sets.
We propose to identify (high-demand high-vacancy) technical job roles and teach the required skills intensively to adults with ASD. Today’s job market rewards specialization and we would like to facilitate the opportunity for adults with ASD to develop new skill sets and perform in-demand roles.
Proof of Concept: In 2013-Present Social Bridge partnered with a college technology department to hire employees with ASD who possessed general technical skills. Managers provided specific training that allowed employees to develop a web-editing skill set, and a welcoming company culture supportive of individual differences. The skilled workers exceeded timelines and expectations resulting in the company extending the contract of these employees and increases in hourly pay.
Let’s make it happen: We are looking for a steering committee of professional community members and businesses who share in this vision of employing adults with ASD in technical work. People who are connected with companies, have high-demand technical skills, or are open to offering mentorship/internships/training, or familiar with grants or funding, would be a great asset to the committee. Join us in brainstorming how to make this vision a sustainable reality. Please contact Lisa firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get involved.
1. Establish a Steering Committee Business people, HR professionals, caring community members, people who have a family member with ASD, or self-advocate professionals–we need your help! The SkillPath Employment Project values various professions and community perspectives who want to help adults with ASD. The committee will provide skilled expertise and opportunities for jobs performing identified high-demand skills. Those who wish to have direct involvement with adult interns can volunteer a few hours per month to be a Professional Mentor.
2. Select 3 Paths With steering committee and mentors’ guidance, choose the top 3 areas of technical labor shortage in the greater Seattle area which require an associates degree (or less), or equivalent technical experience (see list of top jobs below). Develop relationships with hiring managers seeking employees or interns in these areas.
3. Create technical curricula for each path to train adults during their internship experiences. Compose the learning and skills that will develop within each path (i.e., categories of technical skill development that can be useful across job listings). A combination of online learning, direct instruction from mentors, and remote monitoring will be used.
4. Placement Social Bridge and Professional Mentors would facilitate the training and internship placement of adults ASD during in a three-month experience. Interns would complete:
- A 1-month rotation across each of three worksites of choice to explore each path and learn about preferences and talents
- Certificates of completion of curriculum across technical disciplines
Interns’ employability, skill sets, and resume would be enhanced. A symbiotic win-win, this would fulfill local companies’ hiring needs, and also offer adults with ASD the opportunity to explore a variety of sophisticated technical careers, building resume skills and experience. Businesses familiar with an intern’s quality of work can provide letters of recommendation or perhaps leads to long-term employment.
There is a need for sub-bachelors level STEM job skills training The STEM jobs requiring more education post the longest, but using these metrics reveals that “blue collar” or sub-bachelor’s-level STEM jobs are harder to fill than even bachelor’s-level non-STEM jobs (Article).
Employers nationwide have an unmet need In a 2014 national talent shortage surveyed 18,000 hiring managers and the #1 reason that certain jobs are hard to fill is candidates’ lack of technical competencies (hard skills).
We know which computer skills are in demand According to the Brookings analysis of data from Burning Glass sample of vacancies advertised online through company websites in 2013-Q1, STEM “hard skill” requirements most frequently mentioned in computer job postings included Oracle, Microsoft Windows, JAVA, SQL, SAP, quality assurance and control, LINUX, and UNIX. The most hard-to-fill skills include Mathematica, PIG, Apache Hadoop, OpenGL, NoSQL, Python, R, C++, Android, iOS, Biostatistics, Ruby on Rails, and PERL. Ads with these skills linger on company websites for an average of 50 days. (See figure)
Workers without a bachelors degree are in demand Brookings research concluded that there is little relative effort at the federal level to train incumbent workers or educate young workers for sub-bachelor’s degree STEM careers. The findings from this study are consistent with the implication that STEM careers at the post-secondary but sub-bachelor’s level (e.g., technicians; and installation, maintenance, and repair workers) are in high relative demand.
Social Bridge would ultimately launch a center-based model which could be replicable across the nation. Each center would provide a hub of skills training and facility for larger-scale supervised internships. Companies could subcontract or outsource larger projects to the center, and become familiar with the work of the skilled trainees, transitioning interns into employees within those companies.