Opening Doors to Employment
Kailee is a talented young woman who just happens to be on the spectrum. Her hopes of finding a job are not unlike anyone else’s, except with neuro diverse issues, the traditional path to employment is often sabotaged during the job interview. Despite the fact that many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are capable of exceptional job performance (dedicated, polite, follow rules, not overly social and are content with repetitive tasks) employers sometimes fail to see the potential and see only the social awkwardness presented.
That all changed when Kailee was offered a job at Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) as an Office Specialist 1!
After graduating from high school in 2009, Kailee explored a post-secondary education opportunity at Cosumnes River College, and persevered through several semesters to achieve her education goals. She then enrolled in the College to Careers program at Sacramento City College that offers students help with defining and meeting their academic to employment goals, and ultimately place students into a job in their field of interest. Through that, she had the chance to work in an internship that provided her with valuable job skills like being on time, meeting deadlines, learning office etiquette, and collaboration and teamwork, but alas, no paycheck.
During this time her mom could see how being a contributing partner in the workplace gave her a sense of purpose and accomplishment, so pushing through the barriers they encountered and mounting frustration she embraced the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Kaliee’s mom, with support from her other family members, contacted an old friend, Phil, who works in the Inclusion Office at SMUD and described the woes of job security for young adults with special needs. She further explained that if given the opportunity, they would make excellent employees. He was sold on the idea and believed SMUD would be an excellent company to explore this untapped resource.
With management’s approval, he worked to reach out to various departments and was able to find a manager willing to hire Kailee in an entry level position; she began her part time job in mid-August, Mondays thru Fridays, 7am to 11am.
Kailee is working with a job coach to learn the various duties of her job in the Learning and Development department; they include tracking enrollments, maintaining inventory of supplies and refreshments, setting up classrooms and preparing handouts. She says she loves her work and that everyone is very warm, accepting and supportive of her.
Her family is so excited to see where this may lead, not only for their daughter, but for so many young adults struggling to find employment. Her mom says “My hope is that SMUD will be a trendsetter and that many companies will follow their heroic lead and champion a new standard for inclusive employment opportunities.” Her advice to others supporting their loved ones toward employment outcomes she has this to say, “While the battles come with tears, setbacks and defeat, the hope and perseverance of it inspires and makes the victories that much sweeter!”