Ford Motor Co. will launch a pilot program to hire adults with autism on June 1. The program, called FordInclusiveWorks, will create five positions in product development suited to the skills and capabilities of workers with autism. The program was developed with Autism Alliance of Michigan — a nonprofit founded by Dave Meador, vice chairman and chief administrative officer at DTE Energy Co. The alliance is funding the training program tied to the jobs.
Ford’s vehicle evaluation and verification test lab will participate in the program. There, workers will log and prep tires for test vehicles.
“The work is highly structured, requires a great deal of focus, and calls for a high level of attention to detail and organization,” the press release said. “Skills required to complete this task safely and with a high level of quality lend themselves to strengths typically associated with individuals with autism.”
The program is aimed at reducing the unemployment rate among the population of adults with autism, which ranges from 75 percent to 90 percent unemployed nationally.
In the U.S., it’s estimated that more than 3.5 million people and one in 68 children (one in 42 for boys) being born have autism spectrum disorder — a complex brain condition associated with poor communication skills — according a 2014 Center for Disease Control and Prevention study. In Michigan, the state estimates there are 50,000 or more adults with autism, and the number is growing.
It’s called a spectrum because the symptoms can range from not understanding nonverbal communication, to lack of empathy, to obsessive-compulsive behavior, to never speaking. Less-severe cases are often called Asperger’s syndrome, but many experts no longer use that term.