Earlier this month in Jupiter, Florida, more than 40 global companies with technology-, business-, and education-savvy employees came together to help mitigate the 85 percent unemployment rate for people on the autism spectrum.
In collaboration with the Els for Autism Foundation,
SAP, DXC, EY, and JP Morgan Chase are Walking the Talk
The summit hosted live panels and presentations for 280 participants on-site October 10-12 and in a virtual session on October 7, which had 90 participants and accommodated those who could not attend the live event due to financial, sensory, or physical limitations. The 2019 Autism at Work Summit was a huge success, with 60 people on the autism spectrum participating in the event as guests, speakers, panelists, or associates to the catering companies that supported the event.
Earlier this year, an SAP-sponsored hack-a-thon with Dell Technologies in Austin, Texas, provided a perfect opening act for the summit. One hundred fifty Dell employees came together for two days to create technology-enabled solutions to help recruit, retain, and integrate neurodiverse employees into the workplace. Mentored by SAP subject matter experts and employees from the Autism at Work program, the field was narrowed to two winning teams that were awarded a trip to Florida to share ideas with summit participants.
Striving to Address Neurodiversity in the Workplace
The initial goal of this event was to create a collaboration platform between the private and public sector, non-profit organizations, sports and entertainment, k-12 educators and universities and researchers. “It has become obvious over the last few years that we need to pull all of these groups together because we were having so many valuable conversations in silos. We realized we needed a single venue to come together to ensure we would grow in the same direction in a more coordinated way,” said Jose Velasco, Autism at Work ambassador at SAP Americas.
“Our key objectives are to improve the lives of the individuals who are on the autism spectrum, begin preparing them in K-12 and continue all the way through college,” Velasco said. “ highlighted the importance of getting more high school students excited about STEM on Fox News in 2017. We need to embrace this wave of talent and ensure they do not become part of today’s 85 percent unemployment rate for this group. If we can pull together employers, educators, government, and other key influencers to create solutions to address their needs, we will all benefit.”
People Stepping Up to Make a Difference
Breakout sessions were delivered by SAP partners, educators, entrepreneurs, and global business leaders that included Dell, EY, Vanderbilt University, and Daivergent. Sessions covered topics like “Employment Across Industries and Abilities,” a popular topic this year with speakers exploring opportunities for people on the autism spectrum for three job tracks: entrepreneurial, professional, and non-professional settings. Business leaders from each track spoke about their journeys and perspectives.
Other sessions covered business and purpose; gender, where women on the autism spectrum shared their journeys; the legal aspects of an autism hiring program; technology, highlighting solutions that support individuals on the autism spectrum; and neurodiverse college programs.
Everyone Benefits from Neurodiversity
“This was the most successful and highest attended event we’ve had yet,” remarked Velasco. “Attendees, panelists, and presenters were so energized and eager to learn and share. Everyone benefited from the exchange of information. We are now seeing a shift to a richer, purpose-driven enterprise culture across companies.”
Businesses that hire people on the spectrum also benefit. According to Velasco, “many people don’t realize the benefits people with autism can bring to the work environment. These benefits span product innovation and quality, attraction, and engagement of candidates who are not on the autism spectrum but who share our values, partnerships for purpose with our customers and partners, community impact, and, most importantly, the lives that are touched.”
SAP and its partners are on a mission to expand the footprint of neurodiversity in the workplace. This is just the beginning.
SAP and our partners. Improving lives. That is our purpose.