Autism in the Workplace
We are working to increase the number of neurodiverse applicants represented in the slate of candidates for all open positions at the Simons Foundation. Our selection process begins with a skills assessment that shows a candidate’s proficiency in the skills required for the job, putting candidates’ capabilities front-and-center. Qualified candidates are then invited for an interview.
We also provide training and support for hiring managers and employees so that they feel confident in their understanding of autism and are prepared to interview, work with and support autistic colleagues.
Since instituting our new hiring practices, autistic employees have been hired in various departments at the Simons Foundation — from administrative work to finance and computer networking — with no limits on the types of jobs they can perform or the heights they can achieve.
Early Career Internship Program
Recent surveys show that 42 percent of autistic adults have not worked for pay since leaving high school. Recognizing that paid internships are an important step toward building a professional career, the Simons Foundation created an internship program that serves as an opportunity for candidates to gain valuable work experience while building social and interpersonal skills in a professional office (or remote) environment.
During the three-month-long internship, interns work on projects and daily tasks within a department. They gain on-the-job experience while receiving support and participating as a valued member of a professional team. Interns also participate in various workshops throughout the course of the internship, focusing on skills like time management, communications, professional office skills and career development.
Additionally, we set up informational interviews for the interns where Simons Foundation employees meet with interns to provide career guidance, advice on next steps, and help with networking based on each intern’s career interests.
To date, more than 20 interns have completed the Early Career Internship Program, working in departments across the foundation where managers have requested to host an intern. We intend to go beyond the work we are doing in-house to help other employers understand what is possible, enabling them to implement similar programs at their own organizations with help from the Simons Foundation and other partner organizations.
The Simons Foundation will communicate the success of our efforts and encourage other organizations to include autistic candidates in their hiring, or to take a first step by creating an internship program. The tools and resources we’ve developed provide an outline and structure for employers to hire, manage and develop the talents of autistic employees so we can help make neurodiversity part of the fabric of the modern workplace.