There are thousands of young people on the autism spectrum enrolled in colleges and universities around the world. With such a formidable representation, it is encouraging to know institutions of higher learning are committed to providing programs that support and nurture students on the spectrum. Additionally, a number of schools have developed programs exclusively devoted to the educational and social needs of these students. With such strong support from fellow students, as well as educational institutions, there is ostensibly a lot on the line. In fact, we could even say the promise of the future being fulfilled lies in the hands of the young autistic men and women within the hallowed halls of higher learning. Our society is becoming increasingly more tolerant towards those with physical and developmental disabilities, however there is much room for improvement in this area. The reality is simple – we need young adults on the spectrum, just as they need us to show them the way. Granted, they have some social deficits, along with mannerisms that can be difficult to grasp, but the unique talents they offer employers are unparalleled.
The future job market will require well educated employees in order to compete in the global market place. Some analysts are predicting we could see this shift starting to take place as soon as 2020, when three out of five new jobs created will require some type of college training. That means, at minimal, completing a certificate program at the college level will be a necessity for those entering the job market to ensure sufficient wages. While importing talent was once a viable option for many corporations, advances in technology now has countries around the world desiring the same gifted minds. This is where the future autistic employee enters the picture. We now realize many young adults on the autism spectrum are capable of performing complex job related tasks with the addition of work support efforts and job coaching, when necessary. The ultimate goal of having a self-reliant and independent labor force has not changed, but how we arrive at that point has. Implementing work place support programs are crucial to our national security and competitive edge in the 21ST century for several very important reasons.
First, as mentioned, every country wants the best and brightest minds to help grow their economies. The sharpest minds are frequently found within the autism spectrum, thus making this population fertile ground for corporate recruiters. Moreover, ingenuity and creativity will continue to come from members of the private sector in environments where thinking outside the box is not only permitted, but encouraged. Next, there has been a decline in the number of births in developed countries worldwide. For employers, there are fewer potential workers to fill key positions – this position is only exacerbated by the millions of baby boomers either retiring or reducing their work schedules to part-time or consultant basis. We are approaching the point of needing all available workers, especially those who are young and seeking white collar professional careers. Circumstances indeed favor those on the autism spectrum with regards to employment outlook and future opportunities. Finally, economic sustainability is a major consideration as autistic workers start their careers. Given our growing commitment to retirees, pension funds, and social services, the contributions special needs employees will provide society are extremely critical. The economic impact of purchases and taxes from workers on the spectrum are too important to view lightly. Moving forward, we must provide supportive employment opportunities for the autistic community as they march towards adulthood and independence. This is a decision that puts companies in a position to maximize human capital, while allowing autistic adults to live up to their full capacity.