Employment for the Uniquely Abled, with Ivan Rosenberg | EDB 158

Employment for the Uniquely Abled, with Ivan Rosenberg | EDB 158


Hi, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman! Welcome to another episode of Exploring Different
Brains, and today, we have the honor of having with us Ivan Rosenberg, who’s the founder
of the uniquely abled project, and also the founder of so many other things we’re going
to hear about. Ivan, welcome! Thank you! It’s a delight to be here. Well, thank you so much for being here. Now, why don’t you introduce yourself to our
differentbrains.org audience properly. Well, I think the most important thing probably
for your audience is that I am the father of two children on the autism spectrum, which
is what got me interested in all this, in terms of what I’ve done professionally- I
started off as an engineer which led some people to suspect that maybe, I’m somewhat
on the spectrum myself, because I tend to like that kind of stuff. I graduated with an electrical engineering/computer
science degrees, went to work for a while with that then got a PhD in business. Then, I was a professor for 5 years, then
I consulted for many years and now what I primarily do is consult with aerospace and
defense companies, primarily the manufacturers, which led me to have a big insight as to the
kind of workforce that those companies needed. And that, combined with my knowledge of autism
for my children, led really eventually to the uniquely abled project. Very interesting. Now, our mutual friend, Temple Grandin, has
told me she gives commencement addresses around the country to various universities who are
graduating engineering students, that she estimates that about half of engineering graduates
are somewhere on the spectrum. what’s your guesstimate? Well, if you look at the characteristics of
people that like engineering, it’s pretty black and white. The thing either works or doesn’t work. It doesn’t have a lot of the subtleties
sometimes of dealing with human beings. It has nice rules associated with it, sometimes
you can work alone; I know when I was teaching computer science, many of those students hated
to work in teams. So I would say that I wouldn’t be surprised
by that statistic. Why don’t you give our audience some of the
numbers last – you sent me in your excellent summary. If you look on the website of the government
statistics about 17% of the US population is classified as disabled, and that includes
all forms of disability, physical, mental, Etc. And the number 17% does not necessarily shock
people, but when you multiply that times the US population you end up with 40 million people. That’s a lot of people, and more so when you
look at the employment statistics: Theres 60- 90% of that 40 million are either underemployed
or not employed at all, and by underemployed I mean somebody that is physically fit, that
has a great many cases high IQ, and only has a little difficulty maybe with social interaction
ending up bagging groceries at a grocery store; that’s underemployment. So that’s pretty shocking statistics and that
again led to the work that I did with the uniquely abled project. Tell us about how it is did you do all that
you’re doing which is so impressive, and you’re not providing direct services, explain that
to our audience. Well the idea was to create something that
would impact those 40 million people, and I do mean 40 billion; I’m not limiting to
autism although that’s what we started. If you created an organization that serves
a local population like somebody may create a company that specializes in janitorial services
or fulfillment or something like that, and focuses on hiring folks in the autism spectrum
for example. That’s great! But it’s not scalable, and if you’re going
to impact 40 million people, you gotta create something that can be recreated across the
country withhold not necessarily a lot of effort and to do that you got to provide value
if somebody’s willing to pay for it. That is a sustainable solution. And in general you’re talking about a business
solution you got to come up with a solution that solves the 90% percent unemployment among
those with autism and the same time solve the problem for business. Well nice coincidence, the biggest problem
that business has today is access to a skilled Workforce. There’s a very low unemployment rate, but
there’s difficulty getting to people that can perform the tasks that businesses won’t
want. So I said maybe these two problems are solutions
for each other. So I started looking at what was in the way
of businesses hiring people classified as disabled, and give him my business experience
I got quickly realized it’s not a business decision to hire somebody who is disabled. You want to hire a business decision is to
hire somebody who’s able to fill a need that you have as a business. That’s a business decision. Everything else is charity. And in fact that’s generally how we go to
businesses today, is that we go and ask them to hire the handicapped, or be good community
citizens. But that’s charity, and that’s not a sustainable
solution. So the very word disabled gets in the way,
and if one really looks at it it’s actually insulting, to be frank about it, as if all
there is to say about a person is is it there missing certain capabilities, like there’s
nothing else to them. Like here’s Joe and he’s blind like that’s
all there is to Joe. As I said by two children both are on the
Spectrum and they got pretty clear to me that that’s insulting, they don’t be called don’t
want to be called disabled, they don’t want to be called anything quite frankly. Because that’s putting them in a box. So I coined the term uniquely abled how to
see things differently and next question was, “ ok, we now need to look at matching unique
abilities to career jobs in demand.” So I’m not interested in helping people get
jobs that are not in demand and I’m not interested in helping people get jobs that
aren’t career jobs that are short-term part-time jobs they are pretty well handled already;
there are structures out there which already do those jobs just fine. I’m interested matching people to Lifetime
well paying career jobs. So there’s two kinds of jobs: There’s jobs
that do not require prior training, these are typically relatively simple jobs that
usually and highly repetitive and most businesses require that even though you do things repetitively
you must maintain a high focus on detail, you can’t get sloppy about it, and that’s
difficult for most of us; there are other kinds of jobs which are repetitive which may
not require that. But these jobs in general do not require prior
training; and then there’s the other kind of jobs that do require prior training, and
they’re often involving operating machines, or things like that. These require two different solutions to match
uniquely able folks to jobs in demand, so let’s take the jobs that do not require prior
training first. The issue there is that the people whose job
it is to find jobs for Unique abled folks generally most of their network is in retail
businesses. So most of them come with social work background,
not necessarily a business background and with the best of intentions, giving their
life to going and taking care of uniquely able folks and helping them find a job, and
not necessarily getting paid a lot for for doing that job. There’s nothing wrong with their motivation
but their connections are mainly in retail because that’s what’s easiest to get to
if you don’t know businesses. They don’t necessarily know how to network
in business they don’t know how to find the vacancies in business So the first thing we
had to deal with is training job Developers on getting a business Network of finding business
vacancies, finding out how to talk to people in business, and when I say business I mean
something different than retail so in the Parley instance of this tell story called
b2c business selling to Consumers a B2B company is one that sells to other businesses. So for example a department store sells to
Consumer that’s B2C Boeing sells to Airlines that’s a B2B company. it turns out that most of your career jobs
well paying in demand career jobs are in B2B companies. The other thing we gotta deal with is the
companies most companies don’t realize how many of these repetitive jobs that you have
and they don’t realize that there’s a population which loves those jobs that’s really hard
for most of us to understand cuz most of us would hate such a job and there’s a population
which loves those kind of jobs. So the other project we’re involved is educating
companies that they got a lot of repetitive jobs many of them not being done they have
a high turn over in those jobs and that there’s a population that loves them and how to get
in touch with the agencies that can provide those people. I wanted to segway if you will list and explain
the nine required services from the uniquely abled project point of view. So the first thing is, you’ve got to decide
what diagnoses are you matching to what job. So what diagnosis has the unique abilities
that match a particular job? So for example I started with high functioning
autism and what’s called a CNC machine operator. CNC is a Computer Numerically Controlled machine
it’s how huge amount of manufacturing is being done today and there’s a huge unmet
demand for CNC operators. So that met my criteria, there’s a job in
B2B, those are manufacturing firms it’s in demand it’s well-paying and it’s a
perfect match for those with high functioning autism so that was a first step and then what
you need to do is be able to select people for that particular job. They should have a diagnosis but that’s
usually not sufficient you’ve got to make sure that they can exist inside the manufacturing
environment that you’re talking about it could be noisy could be oily and dirty, it might
involve working with other people or might working alone; there’s a number of characteristics
one needs to pay attention to doing that match. the next thing- requirement was financial
support. I’m a parent of two kids with autism. The programs despite government support are
often very expensive and so there’s a program local program here which is very good it’s
$30,000 a year for three years, most parents can’t afford that so I was determined from
day one that the career education program that we set up did not require the parents
to pay anything so financial support was really important. Now it turns out that there’s a- many organizations
particularly government organizations who are responsible for uniquely abled are very
interested in a successful Employment Program because that fulfills their job what they’re
up too and so what we created was uniquely able Academy which I will describe in a bit
but the cost of that Academy is very very small compared to the cost of maintaining
an individual as a client of that government agency, so our experience so far from government
agencies has been this is wonderful for them foundations and other organizations who are
very interested in supporting solutions that have people, uniquely abled people, get good
employment, so financial support is a second requirement. The third requirement is you’ve got to have
the technical skills training so you got to have someplace training people for example
to be a CNC operator. We’ve been looking primarily at community
colleges because at least in the Los Angeles area they recognize that is a need and have
established CNC training programs because they have to have the machine, you have to
have the instructors and so on, so generally we’ve been building called uniquely abled
Academy around an existing technical skills program so you just sort of got to find that
we’re not going to establish that. The next thing is you’ve got to train the
instructors how to train this population for example, if you’re going to train folks with
autism generally you want to lay out a roadmap generally you want to be very clear and specific,
generally you want to give them multiple ways of learning material not just verbally, they
often need to see it, feel it experience it, it’s apart of The Learning Experience. So we have to train the instructors how to
train that population. we’ve been doing that it generally in a three-hour
evening session it’s not that difficult but it needs to be done. Then you need to have a job Readiness training
so again for people with Autism that usually needs some kind of soft skills training, how
to prepare a resume, how to do the interviews which are almost always required. How do you operate in a business environment,
which many of them are not experienced, you have training to do that, and deal with such
issues as you’re working at your machine, your intent a fellow worker comes up to you
and wants to chit chat. how do you handle that in a way that doesn’t
anger your coworker? You can’t just say, “I’m busy now, I
can’t talk”. which would probably be the natural reaction of many people with a diagnosis. So we have to train them how to do that. so that gets them all the education part,
so then you have to have the job search and placement so somebody has to go off and uncover
the vacancies be able to talk to the businesses, be able to have them see we’re not trying
to have them hire the handicapped we’re actually coming in with the offer of a valuable employee
to fill a much needed vacancy that they have. They don’t need a vacancy they need someone
to fill in the vacancy, so we’re really coming in as somebody with a solution to a
problem the business person has but somebody’s got to do that, and generally our population
doesn’t know how to do that. So then you have to coach the potential employer
how to select. the normal selection process for most businesses
is to put them through an intense interview. Now for folks with autism, that’s usually
a very traumatic experience and they don’t do well. Many people with many of your HR people, don’t
know anything about autism, so the normal behavior of somebody with autism, they may
misinterpret. for example they may ask the person a question, and in asking that question,
answering that question, person with autism might not look in their eyes and I looks like
what I’m doing right now looking directly at him because it’s usually too intense for
a person with autism. An HR person may interpret that as their lying
and failed to get the job. So we’ve got a train employers how to select
and generally we suggest they not go through an intensive HR interview unless the HR people
have been educated a little bit close as to what to look for and again that’s not necessarily
a big deal but it has to be done. so eighth, we need to coach the employers
how to onboard and to manage. Now again that doesn’t turn out to be a big
deal, the existing uniquely able folk’s that we’ve placed both in terms of those without
prior training and those with; they went through the standard on-boarding process that the
company had, what was different is there was almost always not always a job coach present,
so the job coach could help explain and answer some of the questions related to the on-boarding,
and that was very useful in that part and then the last thing, the ninth thing you need,
is post hire support, and that varies all over the block with the individual in general
again for the population we’ve been dealing with, there is more support needed at the
beginning during the transition because people with Autism often hate transitions deal with
the difficulties they need support, but generally in all the cases we’ve seen the job coach
fades out and in less than a year and it varies from Individual to individual, but generally
in less than a year, they’ll be six to nine months often, the job coach is either not
present at all or maybe comes by one hour a week or one hour every other week, it’s
not a big deal so far. So those are the nine functions. There’s no one organization that provides
all those functions. For every one of those functions, I can point
to at least one organization that does it, but nobody provides it all, and therefore
there’s no single program that provides all those functions and therefore we have a real
lack of Career Education facilities for the uniquely abled, so we created a structure
called the uniquely abled Academy and that’s all it is it’s not a legal entity, it’s a
structure in which organizations can collaborate to provide all nine functions, again we’re
calling that a uniquely abled Academy and we’ve got two academies running now we have
another seven in planning for this year, and we have 100% placement in those that have
graduated, and they are doing extraordinarily well that’s the structure of a uniquely abled
Academy it takes about six to nine months to establish an academy around an existing
skills training facility, and there’s a -we’ve written a manual on how to do that, and generally
that starts with a small meeting at the educational facility, they decide how those nine functions
are going to be provided what organizations are going to be invited, and those organizations
get invited to initial formation project team meeting and then from then on they generally
meet monthly, and it takes as I said about six to nine months to the first class we have
two uniquely abled academies for CNC operator training in existence. They have graduated thirty-seven folks between
them and we have 100% placement. think about these thirty-seven folks and I’m
not even about the folks now that have got jobs that do not require prior training but
the same experience they all of a sudden are the best at what they’re doing and that’s
really hard to get; some of the employers have said one said for example after 2 and
1/2 Weeks he’s equal to or better than the best CNC operator I’ve ever had, and by the
way I should tell you that the uniquely abled Academy program on CNC operators take 16 weeks
so we’re not talking about 3-year program but that’s because are so naturally matched
to CNC operator, it’s really easy. So and in other cases one HR Director said
they’ll learn in weeks what other people take months to learn, and in places they give
them raises before they normally would so it’s very very successful it’s not just
finding a job, but finding a job that you can excel at, that is good paying because
it’s in demand and it gives you a career and there’s lots of career steps one can take
from being a CNC operator. How can our audience learn more about the
uniquely abled project and how can people get involved with the uniquely abled project? Ok. So how they can learn more is really two ways:
one they can go on our website with uniquelyabledproject.org pretty easy and there’s a huge amount of information
on there including a number of videos which do a good job of explaining and showing the
process. The other thing they can do if they want to
learn more is to subscribe to the newsletter which comes out quarterly and that keeps people
posted on what’s going on and you can do that again through the website. if you’re a organization that provides job
placement capabilities and services then you may want to conduct- have us conduct a job
developer workshop in your area. It’s generally a one day workshop, it’s
not that expensive and we generally want to have somewhere between 15 and 20 people in
the workshop and they almost never come from the same organization, so we have one in the
area and homeless people get invited to it, so if you’re interested in that, contact us
through the uniquely abled Academy excuse me, the uniquely abled project website. you may also be interested in the uniquely
abled Academy whether your a parent or a business or an educational facility or government facility,
you can get one started, and all you have to do there again is to contact me through
the website or through my email address it’s [email protected] that’s
all you have to do and we’ll get you started and like I’ve said, you don’t have to know
anything except you wanted to do this because like I said we had a parent in Massachusetts
all she knew was she had a son in his early twenties and she thought this would be a great
program for him, and I coached her by phone. I’ve never been the visit her, and they’re
now looking for an instructor, they have everything set up to go and once they find that instructor
she will have an operating uniquely able Academy and CNC operator training in the Boston area,
So it can be done. Ivan, it’s been a pleasure to have you here
at differentbrains.org, keep up the great work you’re doing at the uniquely abled
project, and we hope you’ll be back soon. I will! I will be delighted to be back, and thank
you for all you’re doing for the uniquely abled population.