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Dell Hiring Program Aims To Create Opportunity For Adults With ASD

AUSTIN, Texas — After a successful pilot in Massachusetts, Dell Technologies is expanding its autism hiring program to Central Texas.

The Round Rock-based tech giant, which launched the program last April, offers two weeks of training ahead of a 12-week summer internship for adults with autism spectrum disorder. In some cases, those internships turn into a full-time job, according to Lou Candiello, Dell’s military and disability recruiting program lead.

Last year, twelve adults went through the training at Dell’s Hopkinton, Mass. campus. Following the training, two summer interns were hired as full-time employees, and the company is in the process of hiring a third candidate.

Candiello said Dell has big goals for the future of the program, with expectations to expand it globally.

“It doesn’t stop here,” Candiello said. “We don’t want this to be a secret. We want this to be another facet of how we recruit at Dell Technologies.”

Brian Reaves, Dell’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, will monitor the program in Central Texas, where the company plans to bring on roughly a dozen adults for two weeks of training at its Round Rock headquarters. Four candidates will be selected for summer internships after the training.

Reaves said the company’s push to train and hire adults with autism is part of Dell’s broader effort to focus on diversity in its workforce.

“We’ve identified people on the spectrum as folks that need to be part of our future digital economy and part of our economy as we see it now,” Reaves said.

Roughly 1 in 59 children have an autism spectrum disorder in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. The disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, according to the nonprofit Autism Speaks.

However, more than half of young adults with autism remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education in the two years after high school, according to Autism Speaks. And a 2015 survey by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute — the institute’s most recent report on unemployment — found that 58 percent of adults in their 20s who have autism are employed.

But don’t expect Dell to immediately grow the program. Reaves and Candiello agreed they’re trying to take it slow so that they can build a framework for the program.

“A successful program will have the approach we’re taking as well, which is to go slow” to make an effort to understand how it should grow, Reaves said.

Following the 12-week internship program, participants are evaluated and can potentially move to a full-time job at Dell. The new hires or interns can be in jobs ranging from decision science, robotic process automation, software engineer and business operations, according to the company.

The Arc of the Capital Area, an organization that works with Central Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is working with Dell to screen candidates and launch the program here. The group will continue working with those who are not selected for positions at Dell to find other employment.

Allison Abramo, director of The Arc’s supported employment program, said Dell’s program is unique in the area and among big corporations.

“I think they’re a leader in the space in Texas, at least in Austin,” Abramo said. “They’re really putting in a lot of effort into opening up their application process to people who are neurodiverse.”

The organization screens candidates to determine their skills and experience for the two-week training program, which includes meeting with job coaches, hiring managers and working on real-world projects