According to Autism Speaks, an estimated 500,000 teens with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will enter adulthood and age out of school-based autism services over the next decade. That's potentially 500,000 people who will soon be entering the workforce with unique skillsets, ready to contribute to bottom line of companies everywhere. Our Neurodiversity at Work program is committed to creating opportunities for those individuals to realize their potential and build meaningful, lifelong careers.
Freddie Mac's neurodiversity hiring efforts started in 2012 as an internship initiative focused on hiring individuals with ASD. The Office of Inclusive Engagement worked with several organizations to identify qualified candidates, considering them for suitable roles and pairing them with mentors who could help them adjust to the corporate lifestyle. Now, we're expanding our efforts and launching a formal program.
"We're shifting to a new model in which we work with specialized hiring agencies to directly place candidates with ASD into full-time roles. We have employees with ASD working across IT, risk management and loan processing who have brought new perspectives and important skills to the business," says Sarah Crump, manager in the Office of Inclusive Engagement who oversees the Neurodiversity at Work program.
The goal of the neurodiversity program is to find and engage skilled candidates who are often overlooked or turned down at the interview stage: higher functioning adults with ASD who have college degrees in fields such as computer science, mathematics and finance.
Nearly half of 25-year-olds with ASD have never held a paying job, in part due to the lack of advocacy and support that surrounds them in finding jobs and building careers.
"Individuals with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from others, and because they may lack soft skills employers look for, such as the ability to make or maintain eye contact and have a firm handshake, they usually don't make it past the interview phase," says Sarah.
However, where individuals with ASD may lack in certain soft skills, they make up for in their analytical and task-oriented abilities. For example, they are extremely impactful in roles that require intense focus and attention to detail over long periods of time.
To help neurotypical managers and colleagues best work with their fellow employees with ASD, the Office of Inclusive Engagement partners with the nonprofit organization Next for Autism to provide training on ways to be more inclusive, including things like holding virtual instead of in-person meetings. In addition, quiet spaces, light dimmers and noise cancellation headphones are available to help create an optimal working environment. The program is thoughtfully designed to ensure a positive experience for everyone.
As we continue to expand this program, the goal is for neurodiversity hiring practices to become integrated into our enterprise hiring strategy. Hiring managers will consider individuals with ASD for roles, when applicable, because their skills are the right fit. Further, the program will expand to be inclusive of other forms of neurodiversity, such as dyslexia and ADHD.
"Our workforce will reflect the rich diversity of the country we serve. We will continue to be a leader in inclusive hiring, and our Neurodiversity at Work program will be our north star," says Dominica Groom Williams, VP, Office of Inclusive Engagement.
If you're looking to join a company that's wholeheartedly committed to inclusion and diversity, check out our open positions and apply now.