Congresswoman Speier & Autism Advantage Discuss Innovation in Workforce Development

Members of our Autism Advantage team joined U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) this morning for a press conference at the College of San Mateo. The purpose of the event was to discuss how innovative efforts in workforce development can increase the number of good jobs with good wages in the Bay Area. Representing Autism Advantage was program alumnus Liam Tyler. Tyler graduated from the Autism Advantage data analyst cohort his spring, using the program to sharpen his data skills while polishing the workplace soft skills and navigation which will help ensure his talents are matched with a successful career.

“I knew I had more to offer and how hard I could push myself, but I never was given the opportunity to show someone I could. That’s where Autism Advantage came in.,” said Tyler, speaking from stage alongside Congresswoman Speier. “They were the first organization that helped me believe that my disability could be proven to my advantage and that disclosing it to my employer could show them sides of me that other people may not know.”

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The importance of providing platforms which allow companies to access talent from outside traditional hiring practices was echoed by Congresswoman Speier.

“The Bay Area is the innovation hub of our country. We are lucky to have some of the lowest unemployment rates, but that doesn’t mean that the economy is great for everyone, especially against the backdrop of the sky-high cost of living here,” said Congresswoman Speier in announcing the press conference. “The Bay Area job market suffers from a disconnect between employees’ skills and employers’ needs. If we connect the dots, we will create good jobs with good wages.”

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AJ Thomas, Director of Talent Development for Ten-X, speaks at the press conference alongside Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

“As an employer in Silicon Valley, our challenge really isn’t about growth,” said AJ Thomas, Director of Talent Development at Ten-X,  who also spoke at the conference. “Our challenge is about uncovering talent who currently exist in our communities who need to be maximized. That talent can come from traditional universities, but that talent can also come from technical programs, trade certification, and apprenticeships. All of those channels have talent which we want to bring into an organization like ours.”

Autism Advantage solves for Silicon Valley talent gaps by recruiting, training, placing, and supporting autistic talent. Graduates have gone on to work in critical-need positions with companies like SAP, EY, and Visa, as well as government agencies such the Department of Homeland Security.

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Autism Advantage graduate Liam Tyler.

While Autism Advantage staff was on hand to speak with members of the public and the press, having a program graduate like Tyler formally represent Autism Advantage within the program is emblematic of a key to the program’s success. Unlike traditional bootcamps, where support ends upon graduation, Autism Advantage continues to support graduates and their new employers as they grow in their careers. Autism Advantage may be building the pipelines of autistic talent which Silicon Valley needs, but it also provides a platform and network to grow alumni skills and connections. By engaging alumni, and incorporating graduates as volunteers in our work and mentors to new students, Autism Advantage is helping to build Silicon Valley into a hub of autistic culture and skills.

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In addition to Tyler, Congresswoman Speier was joined at the press conference by San Mateo County Community College District Chancellor Ron Galatolo, Ten-X Senior Director of Talent AJ Thomas, Open Access Founder Karen Fullerton, SAMCEDA Public Policy Associate Christina Fernandez, and Digital Marketing and Media Program graduate Dorothy Davis. Most speakers represented organizations which are partners of NOVA, the federally funded workforce development agency that has served a consortium of cities in northern Santa Clara County since 1982.


bikeride1Hey! Our friend Kenneth is riding his bike this July for 100 miles from Washington, DC to the Atlantic Ocean. He decided to do this on his own to raise awareness and funds to train autistic adults through Autism Advantage. We think that’s awesome and hope you do to. You can support his effort by clicking here. Check it out!

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