AUTISM WORKFORCE INITIATIVES
Randy Lewis, Keynote Speaker at ICare4Autism’s Conference
The 2014 ICare4Autism International Autism Conference discussed Global Autism Workforce Initiatives on June 30th in NYC. The opening ceremony’s keynote speaker, Randy Lewis, elaborated on the importance of the integration of individuals with disabilities into the workforce. Mr. Lewis, former Executive Vice President of Supply Chain and Logistics at Walgreens, is responsible for a major movement in hiring great numbers of individuals with disabilities and disorders, including autism, giving them an opportunity that had been so difficult for them to attain.
Due in great part to Mr. Lewis, a Walgreens distribution center began to employ individuals with disabilities in 2007. The company specifically created training for managers to create an inclusive work environment for those with disabilities to be able to work alongside all other employees. Currently, over 40% of the facility’s workforce is made up of individuals with a physical or cognitive disability such as autism. Mr. Lewis has established a goal for all distribution centers to have at least 10% of their workforce consist of individuals with disabilities.
Randy Lewis’ motivational remarks set the perfect tone for the rest of the day, as he inspired everyone to have an open mind, and to be more conscious of being more inclusive of those with autism in our workplaces and in communities. With the autism diagnosis rate being so high in the United States, it is absolutely critical for companies to begin initiatives to incorporate autistics into their workplaces immediately. Each individual on the spectrum is incredibly unique, and can be a huge asset to a company that provides an opportunity that fits their particular strengths and interests.
ICare4Autism Global Workforce Initiative will have global reach as well as local impact and will include workforce training for adults with autism, ages 18 and up, vocational and employment training services from semi-skilled to high functioning individuals, as well as and specially targeted programs for persons with Asperger’s Syndrome.
We hosted our annual International Autism Conference on June 30th-July 2nd, 2014 in New York City. June 30th was the International Autism Workforce Conference Day dedicated to developing and promoting Autism Workforce Programs. The program included a roundtable discussion that addressed planning the transition from highschool to the workforce, self-advocacy, and how to use the skills of those on the spectrum to best suit workplace needs. Speakers on this day included a keynote address by Randy Lewis, former Walgreens Executive VP of Supply Chain and Logistics, Stephen Shore, assistant professor at Adelphi University and ICare4Autism Advisory Board Member, Marcia Scheiner, president and founder of the Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership, and Peter Gerhardt, president of Peter Gerhardt Associates, LLC and founding chair of the Scientific Council for the Organization for Autism Research.
This year in the United States alone, the number of 18 year-olds with autism entering into the workforce or higher education will reach 50,000. ICare4Autism understands the challenges these individuals will face when trying to find proper job training and employment once they finish their education.
Our solution to this challenge is to enact several initiatives to facilitate transition. ICare4Autism’s Global Autism Workforce Initiative, the world’s first global comprehensive autism workforce development initiative will enable us to collaborate with and create dynamic major workforce entities to develop the best practices in workforce development internationally and effective transition plans for people with autism and their families.
Along with a dramatic rise in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (A.S.D.) there is a need for greater acceptance of autism within society and diversity in the workforce. Since more employers are aware many people with autism have valuable talents that can benefit their companies, the goal of our initiative is to offer new unique high value-added private sector opportunities to individuals with autism. It will take significant changes in workplaces across the country to accommodate these individuals.