Freddie Mac partnered with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in 2012 to create an Autism Internship Program designed to match our business needs with the unique capabilities of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The program allows us to reach into a largely untapped source of talent – young adults with ASD who have college degrees in fields such as computer science, mathematics and finance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in 68 children has been identified with ASD. A 2013 study from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders also found that individuals with ASD are more likely than the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors in college.
Freddie Mac works with a network of organizations to identify these talented candidates, craft job descriptions for roles that maximize the benefit to Freddie Mac and help the selected interns realize their full potential, and train managers to aid with the interns' adjustment to corporate life. Because of the program's increased exposure, we are in a unique position of having potential candidates reach out to us. Rather than starting with a specific job, we are now starting with the individual and identifying an opportunity within the company.
"In an effort to hire the best and brightest people to push our company forward, we are committed to exploring every opportunity to hire diverse talent," says Stephanie Roemer, director of Freddie Mac's Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). "Individuals on the autism spectrum have proven that, given the proper environment, they can really thrive and be incredibly productive employees at Freddie Mac."
The program began with four interns in May 2012. The initial class of interns participated in all of the same programs throughout the summer and received support from ASAN and ODI throughout their internships. Since that first class, Freddie Mac has welcomed 17 interns into the program, ultimately hiring nine for full-time positions.
"I was out of college for nearly four years and still had little to show for my education. I just wish that more companies would open up to the idea that having autistic employees isn't a liability. It can be quite an asset. Anyone out there with autism who thinks they don't have hope anymore or thinks they don't have a chance in the workplace they should reconsider and know that it's been done."
Aaron, application services
"I've definitely come to enjoy being at the computer and doing the various types of work. Doing something repetitively has always been kind of rhythmic to me. A lot of the things I do … require you to pay very close attention to what you're going through. You have to make sure you're catching every detail. Because of my autism, I kind of have an advantage in that."
Bertram, business process associate
"My experience coming through the Freddie Mac Autism Internship Program was great. I really enjoyed getting to meet my manager and co-workers before I started. It also really helped that I got to see where I would be working before moving down to the D.C. area."
Kristen, loan processing senior
"Before I came to Freddie Mac, I had struggled to find employment due to my autism in spite of being a highly qualified entry-level candidate. Freddie Mac recognized everything I had to bring to the table, and that autism was a difference, not a detriment. I was able to prove my worth as an intern and became full-time after only a few months. I am grateful to Freddie Mac for seeing past my disability and giving me this opportunity."
Greg, quantitative analytics associate