(Photo | Courtesy of Workability)
As Oregon and the rest of the nation still face staffing issues, Sheila Jordan, founder of Workability LLC, offers a solution that is based in inclusivity. Workability LLC is an online job board that aims to connect neurodiverse adults with inclusive employers across the country.
Neurodiversity is the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in different ways; it is often used in the context of Autism Spectrum Disorder, but also includes ADHD and learning disabilities.
“85 percent of neurodiverse adults with college degrees are underemployed or unemployed,” Jordan said. “Overall, I think neurodiverse workers have been overlooked.”
Jordan and her husband adopted two children from the foster care system years ago. Both of their children are neurodiverse, but Jordan and her husband always maintained the motto of, “whatever it takes.”
“When my oldest son expressed interest in his first job, I wondered if he would be supported and have someone who would help him succeed, or the opposite?” Jordan said. “I realized there is a need to create a job board for the job seeker to find a neurodiverse-friendly environment.”
During the pandemic and in the following years, businesses have struggled to hire and keep employees on their team. An industry that was hit particularly hard was pharmaceuticals. “We’ve all seen the handwritten sticky notes that say sorry we’re close to being understaffed,” Jordan said. “It occurred to me that many of the attributes for a successful pharmacist align with attributes that many neurodiverse workers would have.”
As a result, Workability LLC was recently awarded a sizable contract from Oregon’s Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Program. This contract will help provide adolescents and young adults who have Intellectual Developmental Disabilities (IDD) the opportunity to earn a fair wage, grow and thrive in a professional setting.
With this contract, Jordan hopes to help repair the pharmacy labor shortages in Central and Eastern Oregon. Jordan also finds that many of the skills that make someone a good pharmacist overlap with traits that are commonly found in neurodiverse or autistic individuals, including the ability to focus for long periods on areas of interest, the ability to perform repetitive tasks where accuracy, rules and routine are important, and an emphasis on reliability and punctuality.
“Retail pharmacies in Central and Eastern Oregon can expect the first wave of Pre-ETS participants to complete the coursework and be ready for placement before the end of this academic year,” Jordan said.
Aside from pharmacy, Workability LLC helps neurodiverse adults break into a diverse range of industries. Jordan says that the overall response from businesses has been mixed.
“Larger environment can be more flexible, while small businesses can be a bit more intimidating and have difficulty accommodating certain needs,” Jordan said. “If employers have the courage to hire neurodiverse workers, they will find it to be very rewarding.”
Jordan added that neurodiverse workers tend to have high retention rates, “Given the current employment turnover rate, it wouldn’t hurt to have employees show up on a regular basis and thrive on a daily routine.”
Despite only being in business for a year and a half, Workability LLC has seen significant growth. While current growth suggests a bright future, Jordan is also preparing for a more negative scenario.
“There’s chatter about a recession, which is worrisome when your primary business is a job board, but I think that our programmatic work on training and rehabilitation programs will balance us out and provide us a stabilizing force, should a recession hit,” Jordan said.
Workability held their first in person event last February. While Jordan says the event was “modestly attended,” she is optimistic that these events will help get the Workability name out in the community.
However, one of the best ways to understand Jordan’s mission is to see her work firsthand, “For employers who have already had a positive experience with neurodiverse employees, they are typically very welcoming and encouraging,” Jordan said. “The people who are still learning how neurodiversity works, there is hesitancy, but that typically comes out of naivety.
To help support local, Workability offers a special rate for Central Oregon employers to post jobs. For Central Oregon employers looking to hire, using workability.one is now as affordable as Craigslist.