Autism & Employment Forum
Thank you for a successful Autism & Employment Forum
AuSM extends a sincere thank you to all who participated in the Autism & Employment Forum. Sponsors, volunteers, speakers, agencies, employers, HR representatives, families, caregivers, individuals with autism - your presence yesterday proves your commitment to raising awareness of autism and working toward a more diverse, inclusive work culture within Minnesota companies and beyond. A special thank you to Laura Betker, KARE 11 News Meteorologist, for moderating the session and to Cargill for sharing your beautiful facilities with us for this important event.
Click here to view Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar's message to Autism & Employment Forum 2013 participants.
Autism & Employment Forum 2013 draws crowds and offers solutions for employers and those with autism
In support of forward-thinking employers and the roughly half a million individuals with autism reaching adulthood in the next decade, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton released an official proclamation making Oct. 24, 2013 Autism and Employment Day in Minnesota.
The morning proclamation was the perfect kick-off for the Autism & Employment Forum. More than 350 employers, human resource managers, individuals with autism, family members and caregivers participated in the Autism Society of Minnesota’s (AuSM) third annual Forum on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Cargill in Hopkins, Minn.
In keeping with the theme of “Working Locally, Thinking Globally,” speakers included representatives from Cargill Foods Venezuela as well as local companies. Employers discussed how they have successfully employed and retained individuals with autism and individuals with autism shared their personal employment stories with the sold-out main session crowd.
Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson highlighted why work is so central to all of us. “Work has the ability to strengthen our self-confidence and self-worth,” she said. “Meaningful work has so much power to change our lives. Everyone who wants to have that opportunity should have it.”
The Forum began with the sold-out Leadership Summit Luncheon, where top Minnesota corporate leaders, state agencies, advocates and individuals with autism discussed how to raise awareness and create opportunities for individuals with disabilities who want to be employed.
During the main session, Jon Ander Badiola, President of Cargill Foods–Venezuela, spoke about Cargill’s successful “Engranados” training program that aims to develop socio-occupational skills in people with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities. Program trainers quickly realized that it wasn't only the program participants who were obtaining new skills.
“We were not only preparing participants to be successful, we were also learning about their disabilities and how to interact with them,” Badiola said. “We learned to think big and go beyond what is required.”
Maria Auxiliadora Ramirez, diagnosed with autism in 2011 and a graduate of the Engranados program, joined Badiola and other representatives from Cargill Foods Venezuela for a panel discussion. Ramirez said being employed by Cargill is like being with a big family, and she is grateful to be a productive member of society.
When asked what advice she has for individuals with disabilities as they go through the job search, Ramirez said: “Believe in yourself and assert yourself, and you will have success and reach your goals.”
Representatives from Beltmann Group Incorporated, a transportation and logistics company headquartered in Roseville, Minn. and Merrick, Inc., a day training and habilitation facility based in Vadnais Heights, discussed how employees with disabilities can change a workplace for the better.
Jeanne Considine, Vice President of Accounting at Beltmann, noted that when Beltmann hired an individual with autism, Beltmann recognized a need to educate employees on how to effectively work together. Beltmann brought in the Autism Society of Minnesota for training to help employees understand that people with autism see the world differently. This empowered their employee with autism to share his story and better communicate with his co-workers.
“The training was very positively received by employees. We wish we would have done it sooner,” Considine said. “Since the training our staff is a kinder, more caring and more tolerant group of people.”
Mike Greenbaum, Finance and Development Director at Merrick, Inc., encouraged employers who are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities not to be concerned about what could happen if the employment isn’t successful, but instead to consider the new opportunities.
“Each individual is unique and presents different capabilities,” Greenbaum said. “The more incorporated individuals can be through natural supports, the more likely success will follow.”
Though Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was not able to attend the Forum, she sent an inspirational pre-recorded message for participants. She acknowledged the importance of the Forum, noting that coming together to share ideas helps ensure that more and more employers know that those with autism can enhance the workforce.
Klobuchar said, “You are the guardian angels for all of these families and individuals living with autism. They may not all be aware of what you are doing here today, but you are making a difference. You are giving them wings to fly.”
Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben and Commissioner Jesson presented this year’s AuSM Employment Award to Beltmann Group Incorporated and Merrick, Inc. for their achievements in increasing awareness and promoting a diverse, inclusive culture within their companies.
Following the main session, an Information Fair was held for employers and individuals with autism seeking employment. The Fair included training sessions for Interviewing Tips and Strategies, Disclosure, Pros and Cons and the Job Search. Participants also visited with company representatives and state agencies to receive one-to-one job search assistance and practice interviews.
Thank you, 2013 Sponsors!
Beltmann Group Incorporated
Minnesota Department of Human Services (MDH)
Minnesota Department of Transportation
Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Minnesota Life College
Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD)
Allegra Downtown St. Paul
For more information about AuSM’s employment programs, click here.