Career opportunities for persons with disabilities are fewer than those for persons without disabilities. While finding a job right out of college is tough as is, students on the autism spectrum face added hurdles. University of Delaware’s Spectrum Scholar program is aimed at changing this trend in the employment prospects of people on the autism spectrum. It seeks to create a fair and impartial learning environment to help autistic students succeed in careers of their choice.
Young autistic adults remain largely underrepresented in the mainstream workforce. In fact, according to the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, only 58% of autistic people with special education got career opportunities in their early twenties. Therefore, the primary focus of the Spectrum Scholar program is career development. It is managed by the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies.
The program was launched in 2019 and this summer, its first-ever batch of five students completed their internships with the University, JPMorgan Chase, and Friendship House. An elated Mary Ellen Stephens, the program’s career coordinator gushed, “All the credit goes to the students. These resume-building and hands-on experiences will not only help them build valuable skills but also an impressive portfolio.”
JP Morgan Chase is an official partner of the Spectrum Scholar program, which has accepted nine more students this year. “Apart from preparing autistic students for employment, it is also important to change the hiring policies and make them more inclusive,” says James Mahoney who is responsible for starting the Autism at Work program at JP Morgan Chase in 2015. Since then, JPMorgan has hired over 200 employees on the autism spectrum worldwide.