In May, the Ford Motor Company began a pilot program to train individuals with autism in the workplace. Recently, the automaker said that it was expanding the program to employ adults with autism, bringing on an additional 12 to 24 hires in 2017, according to reports by the Automotive News and Benchmark Monitor.
Ford hired its first four adults with autism who have college degrees to work in its product development department at its headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, for the FordInclusiveWorks program, in partnership with the Autism Alliance of Michigan. The four original employees were on temporary status to start but all have become regular employees at Ford.
"When we started, we wanted to make sure we could do this and do it sustainably," said Kirstin Queen, manager of diversity and inclusion at Ford, in the Automotive News story. "The program was found to be very successful, and the supervisors have said these individuals brought a new energy that spread to other employees."
The Autism Alliance of Michigan is a non-profit that works with nearly 40 companies, including Ford, training staffers on making structured tasks, and how to interact with the new employees so everyone succeeds, including socially.
“The work is highly structured, requires a great deal of focus, and calls for a high level of attention to detail and organization. Skills required to complete this task safely and with a high level of quality lend themselves to strengths typically associated with individuals with autism,” said a press release on the Ford website.
“We applaud Ford for recognizing the value in employing people with autism," said Autism Speaks Vice President of Adult Services Leslie Long on the Autism Speaks website when Ford initially announced the program. "This trend of tapping into a labor pool that is skilled and engaged is critical for companies to be successful in the next century.”
The expansion of the program has already begun and the extra jobs are expected to be filled by January.