A partnership between Pepco Holdings and The Precisionists, Inc., stole the show at Exelon’s Innovation Expo, beating out more than 250 other entries to win first place in the fast-pitch contest’s Inspiration/Ideation category. Daymond John from the popular TV show Shark Tank was both keynote speaker at the event and one of the judge for the competition. The Precisionist employs dozens of adults with autism, and Pepco Holdings has been using their innovative disability employment model across a number of its business areas.
“When properly assessed, trained and employed, people with autism are extremely high-performing employees in critical and challenging jobs, such as administrative business functions, software testing and data analytics,” said Ernie Dianastasis, CEO of The Precisionists. “When you consider that more than 70 percent of people with autism in the country are either unemployed or underemployed, we are making a true difference in engaging this significant, untapped and high-performing labor force.”
Individuals taking part in the program are identified, assessed, trained and employed by The Precisionists, then carry out project-based work, including managing and updating databases, supporting the processing of solar application invoices and requests, and entering and analyzing data for the company’s customer care organization. Participants also provide support to all of the Pepco Holding’s utilities, which includes Pepco in Maryland and the District of Columbia and Atlantic City Electric in southern New Jersey.
Individuals entering the program go through a comprehensive four-week training program, utilizing the methodology of Specialisterne, a nonprofit launched by Thorkil Sonne that offers programs for talent and career development to autistic individuals. As part of the program, Delmarva Power hopes to identify additional opportunities to expand this employment model to other parts of the business, further supporting The Precisionists’ goal of employing 10,000 people with disabilities in the United States by 2025.
Dr. Ann Wagner Named National Autism Coordinator
Ann E. Wagner, Ph.D., is the U.S. National Autism Coordinator. It’s a role she holds in addition to her position as chief of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Biomarker and Intervention Development for Childhood-Onset Mental Disorders Branch, which houses the institute’s Autism Research Program. Dr. Wagner plays a vital role in ensuring the implementation of national autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research, services, and support activities across federal agencies. This role will complement the activities of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes public and federal members, takes place in a public forum, and focuses on sharing information about ongoing activities and providing advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on issues related to ASD.
Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable
Disability:IN (formerly US Business Leadership Network [USBLN]), along with: DXC Technology, EY, Ford Motor Company, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Microsoft, and SAP, formed the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable to help close the unemployment and underemployment gap for individuals on the autism spectrum.
These cross-industry employers have led hiring initiatives specific to individuals on the autism spectrum for over a year, and recognize the significant benefits to their company cultures as well as those experienced by individuals hired at these companies.
The Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable values transparency and the community of employers are sharing best practices and findings for autism hiring initiatives. For example, employers looking to explore how to get started with their own inclusive hiring programs can leverage the deep operational experience of these companies. Those employers in the roundtable are also given resources and guidance on efforts such as program messaging, approach and other recommendations.
“By working together we can further develop our programs, knowledge and share it with other organizations both large and small, allowing us to make impact for the current and future generations of people on the spectrum,” states Michael Fieldhouse, Director – Emerging Businesses and Cyber security, Dandelion Program Executive, DXC Technology.
The Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable will engage with autism communities and broader groups in academia and universities to raise awareness of the various hiring initiatives available at these companies. The collective roundtable of companies will collect feedback on these efforts as various initiatives scale, with the end goal of ultimately having an impact on reducing the unemployment rate for individuals on the autism spectrum.
NXT GEN Coders to Increase Employment Readiness
GameStop and Autism Speaks partnered up to help tackle the high unemployment or underemployment rate the vast majority of adults with autism face. The NXT GEN Coders Program powered by GameStop provides financial funding to organizations, schools and universities that teach digital literacy and coding to people with autism, to help prepare them for the competitive job market. With a special focus on teens and college-age students, the NXT GEN Coders Program is also open to children and adults on the autism spectrum, from preschool age through retirement.
In its first year, the NXT GEN Coders Program received 38 proposals from 16 states. Applicants included community-based coding academies, not-for-profit service providers and large universities. All qualified proposals were evaluated by professionals within the coding industry and adults with autism who work in computing and gaming.
Source: GameStop Corp., Autism Speaks
World’s First Water Park to Receive CAC Accreditation
Aquatica Orlando, in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), completed a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training as well as an onsite review of the park property and guest experience. The completion designates Aquatica Orlando as a Certified Autism Center (CAC) as distinguished by IBCCES—the first water park in the world to receive such a distinction. This accreditation follows sister park Sesame Place, which was the world’s first certified autism center theme park.
Source: SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
Autism Stories On-Demand Platform
To address the growing prevalence of autism and the desire to empower the global community affected, co-founders Remi Tetot and Alex Plank launched Autism Stories, a platform that will offer informational resources to subscribers through engaging interviews and documentaries featuring individuals with autism, impacted families, scientists, researchers, professionals in the field, and more. Autism Stories will be the convener of voices that will support and propel the autism community further. The subscription-based service is built on three verticals: living, growing and succeeding with autism. Each section will offer 10- to 60-minute interviews with world-renowned individuals on the spectrum, such as Temple Grandin and Steve Silberman, as well as conversations with parents, kids and prominent leaders in the space.
Source: Autism Stories
Vacation Home Rental Company is Certified Autism Center
VillaKey, a Certified Autism Center, is the first vacation rental company globally to earn the CAC designation. The family-run business caters to families, many with children on the autism spectrum to book vacation home rentals. “We saw an under-served market with a genuine need,” says Alice Horn, the CEO of VillaKey, LLC. “Children on the autism spectrum are uncomfortable with unfamiliar environments, and many families avoid hotels, or may not go on vacation at all. The children require a familiar and safe environment, which can be best provided in a vacation home.”
Source: VillaKey LLC, ibccess.org