The decks are stacked against someone with autism getting a chance in the workplace. the Dearborn-based automaker Ford is working to help change that.
Ford Motor Company announced Wednesday that it’s working with the Autism Alliance of Michigan on a pilot program that aims to provide individuals who have autism with an opportunity to gain work experience with the company in an on-the-job training program funded by the alliance.
According to a statement, FordInclusiveWorks kicks off June 1 and will provide work roles in Ford’s product development organization.
“We are committed to making people’s lives better, and this pilot program has the potential to not only make the participants’ lives better, but also help Ford be an even more diverse and inclusive workforce,” says Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, product development and chief technical officer. “Autism affects many people in our communities, and I’m proud we’re taking on this important initiative.”
Five new positions in product development were created to suit the skills and capabilities of people with autism. As part of this pilot, Ford will evaluate participants for future employment, as well as the program in general. If there is a potential fit, the individual will enter into Ford’s standard recruiting process.
“Individuals with autism bring a unique set of talents to our business,” says Felicia Fields, Ford group vice president, human resources and corporate services. “We recognize that having a diverse and inclusive workforce allows us to leverage a wider range of innovative ideas to make our customers’ lives better.”
The idea is that those with autism will not only contribute to business objectives, but also enhance diversity at Ford. The program supports the company’s goal to contribute to a better world and support the communities in which it operates.
“We are truly excited to be collaborating with Ford on this pilot program,” says Colleen Allen, president and CEO, Autism Alliance of Michigan in a statement. “For so many individuals with autism spectrum disorder, getting and keeping a job is a challenge. Often, companies lack understanding of the unique characteristics associated with autism, which can be challenging, and unfortunately this can lead to perceptions of a poor fit for the individual and coworkers. I applaud Ford for taking these critical steps to understand autism, and for giving those who have struggled to find competitive employment real career opportunities that could be life changing for them.”
Here’s an example of how it could work.
In the vehicle evaluation and verification test lab, a FordInclusiveWorks participant will log and prep tires for test vehicles used by engineers for product assessment. The work is highly structured, requires a great deal of focus, and calls for a high level of attention to detail and organization.
These are skills that lend themselves to strengths typically associated with individuals with autism.
Individuals with autism interested in being considered for future pilot program opportunities can reach out to the Autism Alliance of Michigan for assistance in preparing for such experiences and workplace success.