Press Release – CHAPEL HILL, NC (January 8, 2014) – As the U.S. prepares for a tsunami of young adults with autism who will enter the job market over the next decade, autism specialists and business leaders will assemble in Chapel Hill, NC on January 27-29 for the first summit to press for more small businesses solutions to what is already an unemployment crisis affecting tens of thousands of these individuals.
Convened by Extraordinary Ventures, Inc. (EV),a North Carolina non-profit organization that is a pioneer in creating small businesses that employ adults across the autism spectrum, the summit – Employing Adults on the Autism Spectrum: A Conference on Pioneering Small Business Models – is especially timely now that 90 percent of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are either unemployed or underemployed and an estimated 500,000 additional Americans with ASD will be seeking employment over the next decade. Because today’s job market is unprepared for this wave of prospective employees, the conference will showcase 14 of the most innovative small business models now employing these workers to elevate the role of local entrepreneurs and small businesses as a critical solution to the autism job gap.
“For the autism community, this national conference is nothing short of the turning point in addressing the unemployment crisis now affecting tens of thousands of adults with autism and realizing their potential as truly successful and contributing members of society,” said Gregg Ireland, Senior Vice President and Portfolio Counselor at Capital World Investors and father of a 23-year old son with autism who founded Extraordinary Ventures in 2007. “Especially during a time of budget tightening and federal and state government cut-backs, the answer to this problem rests with us and our commitment to advocate for small business solutions across the country. The goal is to spark a national movement where an increasing number of small businesses and entrepreneurs create self-sustaining businesses to meet the needs of their local residents while providing a range of jobs that match the skills of people with autism and developmental disabilities.”
To build the case for small business solutions to the unemployment crisis affecting adults with autism, the conference will focus on the strategies used by the leading innovators in the field, such as EV, that without government funding operates five different businesses, or “Ventures,” which collectively employ 40 young adults with autism or a developmental disability in the Chapel Hill area. After trying and failing to sustain its operations through a traditional non-profit structure, EV assembled a team of recent college graduates – entrepreneurs seeking to create a suite of small micro-businesses – and transformed a struggling start-up into an effective and profitable company that operates backwards from traditional models, structuring each “Venture” around the tasks that young adults with autism are capable of doing, such as businesses where there is a specified flow and series of routine steps. This means mapping out all the tasks required to operate a successful business, then laying out each step in the process and providing employees with the visual cues, diagrams and other tools so they can follow these steps.
“EV was founded on the core belief that adults with autism and developmental disabilities are capable of holding a job and doing meaningful work, and what our employees are accomplishing every day is proof that this is true,” Ireland explained. “Regardless of whether they are high, mid- or lower-functioning employees, EV offers each employee a job based on what he or she can contribute to the business. Our business proposition is to break everything down, organize each business operation to fit our workers, and not to be afraid of risk or to try something new.”