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Kessler Foundation Grants $300,000 to Autism Alliance of Michigan

Kessler Foundation Press Release


The two-year grant aims to increase employment of individuals with autism within automotive companies

EAST HANOVER, NJ – January 29, 2018 – Kessler Foundation has awarded a two-year, $300,000 Signature Employment Grant to Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM) to launch a new diversity initiative that aims to increase employment of individuals with autism within automotive companies. The grant is part of $2.3 million awarded by Kessler Foundation to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create and expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

In 2016, AAoM launched FordWorks – a pilot program with Ford Motor Company that provided comprehensive recruiting and training for the company and individuals with autism in Ford’s Product Development department. Through this grant, AAoM will refine the initial pilot model, integrating evidence-based strategies into a new diversity initiative that will be implemented by automotive companies in Michigan and two other states. AAoM plans to partner with local support and advocacy groups, universities and community colleges, as well as five vocational rehabilitation and provider agencies to create a sourcing pipeline of jobseekers with autism.

“Individuals with autism face unique challenges in the workplace, which can be overcome if we educate employers on the value and benefit of hiring these individuals,” explained Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “We are happy to a support an organization whose work generates private-public partnerships, creating new avenues for individuals with autism to secure competitive, meaningful employment.”

Over the next two years AAoM is expected to place 200 jobseekers with autism into integrated employment, with a minimum of 100 individuals in the automotive and manufacturing industries. AAoM will provide employers and sourcing agencies with training modules, guidebooks, and web-based resources to ensure scalable support. Jobseekers with autism will receive supported hiring, onboarding, and on-the-job training, as well as be assigned a job coach who will follow up with the employee for a minimum of one year.

“The automotive initiative funded by the Kessler Foundation will allow us to design and implement a model of support for adults with autism in this unique work setting. Given the range of skills and talent demonstrated by this population, we have been committed to finding positions that create a better ‘match’, for both the employer and employee than what has traditionally been accessible,” explained Colleen Allen, PhD, president and CEO of AAoM. “Given the vast scope and range of positions which exist within the automotive industry, we knew this was an opportunity to create a model which could address the barriers of recruitment and retention in the workplace, in a unique, non-retail industry. We are very excited to enter into this funded partnership with Kessler, who early on recognized the importance of this work.”

By the end of its first two-years, AAoM expects the project to become a sustainable initiative through on-going partnerships with automotive companies who will support the program’s staffing and resources. Additionally, trend data will be collected from employer feedback, including measurements of productivity, job performance, and changes in employer culture, which will be used to increase employee performance and evaluate the efficiency of the model.

Apply Now

Kessler Foundation is accepting applications now for its 2018 grant programs. To learn more and to apply, please visit our website. Signature Employment Grant applications must be submitted by February 18th, and Community Employment Grant applications are due by April 9th.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes--including employment--for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973-324-8382;

Laura Viglione, MS; 973-323-3675;

Submitted by lviglione on Mon, 01/29/2018 - 10:17