This past summer, the Ford Motor Company decided to bring in four employees who were all on the Autism Spectrum. They were hired to work over the summer in product development at the Dearborn, Michigan headquarters. All four workers ended up being successful enough in their efforts to earn a regular position on the company’s payroll.
Now, just a few months after launching the program, the major American automaker is hoping to add more candidates to their workforce. A representative from Ford says that it will add 12 to 24 additional people on the spectrum to their team in 2017.
Great News For People on the Spectrum Who Hope to Enter the Workforce
This is extremely hopeful news for people on the spectrum and their family members. Many parents of young children or teens who are autistic have doubts about what lies ahead in the future for their child, and if they will be able to have a successful career one day.
While there are some individuals on the lower end of the spectrum with severe learning and social delays who will unlikely hold down a job when they get older, there are others who could easily enter a program like the one offered by the Ford Motor Company and be able to live a more fulfilling life that they once believed.
Ford Staff Members Took the Time to Understand What Each Participant Needed to Succeed
“Our decision to expand the program was based on the success of the pilot; starting small enabled us to focus on implementing the right way — taking time to understand what worked well, and what processes could be enhanced for a larger-scale rollout,” said Kirstin Queen, diversity, and inclusion manager at Ford.
All the participants with autism who were hired by Ford either have a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree, depending on the complexity of their job. The officials at the Autism Alliance of Michigan, which is a nonprofit organization, is contracting with Ford to help the company integrate the new staff members through the FordInclusiveWorks initiative.
Participants In the Program Earn Impressive and Respectable Wages for their Work
The participants are earning hourly wages equivalent to between $31,000 and $38,000 per year for positions in the company’s tire lab, vehicle preparation area, and the design and advanced engineering lab.
The Ford employees onboarded through FordinclusiveWorks go through the company’s standard hiring process and compete for jobs that are publicly posted. However, the Autism Alliance of Michigan identifies candidates on the spectrum who they believe would be a good fit for positions and helps support both the candidate and Ford employees throughout the hiring process to ensure that a person’s disability doesn’t interfere with their potential to succeed.
Program Organizers Ensure that All Participants Have the Resources They Need for the Job
Once a participant is on the job, Morris says that her group offers a wide range of individualized supports, both at work and outside the job.
“For a lot of these guys, it’s not the actual job performance, it’s all the other things like getting to work on time, dressing and being ready to focus that can derail an opportunity,” she said.
The training managers and the coworkers have been essential to providing appropriate accommodations, Morris stated, some employees need checklists to stay on task, for example while there may be others who have poor muscle tone and may fall out of their chair.
At this time, The Ford Motor Company has opened up new positions to workers with autism cautiously, despite broad interest from managers across the company. Morris says it is to ensure that the program has good outcomes.
Going forward, she expects the initiative to continue to grow and include people with other types of disabilities and possibly other Ford locations across the country.
“The most exciting development of the work with Ford is that word is spreading,” said Colleen Allen, president, and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan. “No single manager or current staff has been mandated to hire employees on the spectrum. These are just good employees, filling a business need.”
There are so many people in the United States who are living with disabilities that may prevent them from performing a job successfully. But with the right amount of understanding and training, as well as a lot of patience, it is possible that we may see many other major corporations getting involved in similar programs in the future. This will help give these individuals a better quality of life while keeping thousands of people off of disability benefits.