Upbound Staffing creates inclusive connections for employers and job seekers

Autism Alliance of Michigan was founded with the vision that people with autism will lead lives that meet their greatest potential. 

Adults living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience high rates of unemployment and underemployment — as a whole, neurodivergent adults experience unemployment rates as high as 40%, far higher than those without a disability. Despite this disparity, neurodivergent workers are 30% more productive than neurotypical workers — this according to the Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM) Upbound Staffing program.
The program helps prepare job candidates living with autism for all parts of a career search and assists employers in making their work environments more inclusive. Through this process, the program also looks to improve the economic integration, wealth, and independence of job candidates with neurodevelopmental differences through access to support and inclusion in employment.
“Upbound Staffing is a staffing solutions company specializing in creating access to employment opportunities for individuals with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disorders,” says Laurel Buck, Upbound Staffing director of employment initiatives. “We partner with community employers who are committed to enhance their internal diversity initiatives by expanding the talent pipeline and adjusting employment practices to reduce the barriers traditionally faced by our candidates throughout the hiring process.”
The program’s website includes a range of resources candidates can access on their own. All candidates are offered interview coaching and practice, resume support, and counseling to assist with self-advocacy. Candidates can also find a job-searching resource page advising job seekers where to start and a list of open positions with links to apply.
Candidate testimonials highlight how Upbound Staffing’s resources have helped with resume writing, job searching, interview preparation, developing communications skills, and following a daily schedule. A resume template explains how candidates can effectively present their experience. Interview resources include a list of frequent questions and how to answer them as well as a list of common mistakes made during interviews and how to avoid them.
Courtney Wilder and Laura Buck.
Another free resource, Upbound Staffing’s bimonthly newsletter provides both job seekers and employers with dates for upcoming events, lists of job openings, a spotlight on partnering companies, strategies for dealing with at-work challenges, and more.
Beyond resume templates and helping to improve job-hunting skills, candidate testimonials also share how the program helps with finding fulfilling jobs that are a perfect fit for their skills and desired work-life balance.

Online yolBe community a robust virtual resource

Candidates can also join Upbound Staffing’s online yolBe community. A career-building website partnered with Upbound Staffing, yolBe can help job seekers living with ASD and other disabilities to expand their network and access available jobs, training, and events.
“We are helping break down barriers for our candidates to seek employment, putting them in a better position to support themselves financially, leading to independence and a personal sense of pride,” says Courtney Wilder, AAoM talent acquisition specialist. “It also provides an avenue of access to jobs aligning with one’s level of knowledge and experience with a supportive employer.”
“Even with resources and assistance, a common struggle for candidates is the inability to proceed past a first interview, even for highly educated, successful college graduates,” Buck adds. “Traditional interviews can be challenging for people with ASD, for example, because of variances in processing time, ability to read social cues, and the ability to identify and follow unspoken rules.”
Buck shares how one candidate in the program held a degree in aerospace engineering with a near-perfect grade point average but was experiencing trouble finding a job. Upbound Staffing found an automotive engineering opportunity through a partnered employer matching the candidate’s career goals and educational background.
The employer accommodated by making changes to their interview process, which allowed the candidate to review the interview questions ahead of time and physically demonstrate skill in the work instead of solely relying on verbal communication to prove their abilities.
“Altering the interview in this way allowed the employer to gather the information they needed to make a solid decision while providing tools for the candidate to fully voice and illustrate their skillset,” Buck says. “The candidate has held this role for nearly two years with consistent positive feedback on his work performance.”
Assistance continues once a candidate lands a job, according to Buck and Wilder. The Upbound Staffing team stays connected with the candidate and their supervisor for up to one year after job placement.
“During this time, we gather feedback from both parties to identify areas of success along with areas where more coaching or tools may be needed to guarantee success,” Buck says.
A holistic approach

AAoM recognizes that success in the workplace is also influenced by other areas of a candidate’s life. For example, beginning a new job surrounded by new people means a higher chance of being exposed to the flu or COVID-19 — and adults with ASD are infected and hospitalized at higher rates than adults without ASD. AAoM can both help program participants find immunization providers that are trained in caring for people with autism and share tips on how to prepare for that health care appointment.
AAoM also works with health providers and patients with ASD in receiving the best care possible to keep people with ASD protected from any illness that could be contracted while around a large group of people.

What about employers?
Upbound Staffing also helps companies find job seekers. Candidates hired through the program bring these employers benefits like increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and 98% retention rates. 
“Upbound Staffing provides employers consultation and services aimed to create a more disability-inclusive culture,” Wilder says. “These services come in the form of trainings where companies can continue their education surrounding how autism and other developmental disorders present in the workplace, which also includes support for neurodivergent employees in the best way possible.” 
Employers can schedule an appointment to begin customizable consultation experiences, including individual training or a training series. This option allows for a 90-minute in-person seminar for up to 50 people. Online webinars are also available and range from 60 to 90 minutes for up to 100 people. 

Upbound Staffing also provides workplace culture assessments and accessibility profiles that utilize surveys and analyses of employees and leadership teams. Recommendations based on the surveys help employers create a more inclusive work environment. And employers can access one-on-one job coaching that helps them to implement effective hiring practices, adjust workplace policies, and provide  ongoing support and accommodations.
“Through my work with Upbound Staffing, I see employers who appreciate diverse ways of thinking and are openminded around how to make work more accessible,” Buck concludes. “We will continue to advocate for changes to universal employment practices and partner with employers to find new ways to execute common practices like interviewing to promote a more diverse workforce.”
To learn more about the Autism Alliance of Michigan, Upbound Staffing’s 26 employment partners, and how to become one of their over 1,700 job seekers, click here.

Joseph Goral graduated from Oakland University in the summer of 2023 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Before his graduation, Joseph was a digital news intern at ClickOnDetroit and a contributing writer for The Oakland Post. When Joseph is not writing, you can usually find him watching Pistons basketball, playing with his dog Biggie, doing personal photography, and spending time with friends and family.

Photos by Tommy Allen.

Logos and staffing services photo courtesy AAoM.
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