Recently, the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson Univeristy hosted the Maryland Workforce Outlook Forum. The event highlighted the economic conditions and workforce impacts of different groups—opportunity youth and neuro-diverse individuals—in the state.

The term neuro-diversity reflects the increasing awareness that the population consists of people with a variety of different neurological skills, abilities, and conditions. Neuro-diversity is a broad term, and includes conditions including:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Dyslexia
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Individuals with a mental illness

Our population is very neuro-diverse. It’s estimated that approximately 20% of students have a language-based disability, such as dyslexia. According to the CDC, roughly 11 percent of children have ADHD. Nationwide, one in every 68 children is estimated to have ASD, while the rate in Maryland is one in every 122 children. Together, these three conditions alone impact almost one-third of the population.

However, our workforce does not currently reflect the neuro-diversity in the greater population. The unemployment rate is estimated at close to 80 percent for individuals with ASD and 45 percent for individuals with dyslexia. However, neuro-diverse individuals often possess many of the skills employers are looking for. For example, individuals with ASD are smart, diligent, detail-oriented, and creative. But social challenges limit their ability to make it through the hiring process.

Applying a “one size fits all” approach to hiring and handling employees misses individuals with atypical needs. For example, individuals with attention deficit disorders benefit from multi-tasking instead of focusing on one task at a time. Individuals with dyslexia are often visual learners, so redesigning training and other workplace materials to focus less on walls of text may help integrate workers better. Recognizing that individuals with ASD may have trouble with a traditional job interview, hiring practices can change to consider how important social interactions are for the job in question. Missing highly qualified candidates and poorly integrating workers only harms businesses in the long run.

Related—Towson University hosts Maryland Workforce Outlook Forum

To assess the opportunities for Maryland’s neuro-diverse workforce, RESI used our proprietary PROM tool to forecast employment. For this research, RESI focused on individuals with ASD, a condition that impacts the ability to develop social and communication skills. The condition has been receiving increasing attention as the rates of individuals with ASD has increased in recent years. However, the increasing rates are more due to improved detection and diagnosis rather than an increase in the condition itself.

RESI first identified occupations which individuals with ASD would be suited for. To do this, RESI followed the methodology used by Stephanie Good at California State University, Long Beach. Ms. Good used O*NET Online’s Computerized Interest Profiler (CIP) to identify occupations best suited for individuals with ASD. After answering the questions to match a profile of a typical individual with ASD, as created by Ms. Good, O*NET Online returns 24 occupations requiring little to medium preparation. These occupations include production inspectors, statistical assistants, mapping technicians, and medical and clinical lab technicians. RESI mapped these 24 occupations to 19 six-digit SOC codes, and examined the forecasted employment for these occupations within our PROM tool.

Each year between 2017 and 2019, RESI projects that there will be 2,463 job openings in the 19 occupations we examined. This estimate is likely conservative, as the occupations we studied are those for a “typical” individual with ASD. It is very likely that there are other occupations individuals with ASD can occupy. The table below shows the ten occupations with the most job openings over the next three years.

6-Digit SOC Code Occupation Annual Average New Job Opportunities for Occupation, 2017-2019
13-1041 Compliance officers 366
29-2052 Pharmacy technicians 342
43-9021 Data entry keyers 333
47-4011 Construction and building inspectors 319
29-2012 Medical and clinical laboratory technicians 277
43-9051 Mail clerks and mail machine operators, except postal service 209
19-4021 Biological technicians 172
51-9061 Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers 159
17-3011 Architectural and civil drafters 72
19-4061 Social science research assistants 44

Table showing projected annual job openings for select occupations

Simply knowing the number of projected jobs for key occupations is useful. However, workforce developers who need to prepare individuals with ASD straight out of high school for these jobs need to know how best to do so. To this end, RESI analyzed which certifications would benefit individuals with ASD most, as they prepare themselves for jobs. The below table displays a selection of the certifications most applicable to the projected job market for individuals with ASD.

Certification Name Certifying Organization Annual Average Number of New Jobs Which Use Certification, 2017–2019
Concrete Field Testing Technician – Grade I American Concrete Institute International 517
Commercial Mechanical Inspector International Code Council 478
Disaster Response Inspector International Code Council 478
Bridge Safety Inspection – Level I National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies 478
LEED Green Associate Green Building Certification Institute 343
Certified Pharmacy Technician Pharmacy Technician Certification Board 342
Certified Pharmaceutical Industry Professional International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering 342
Certified Nutrition Support Clinician The National Board of Nutrition Support Certification 342
Certified Outsourcing Specialist: Transaction Processing International Association of Outsourcing Professionals 333
Concrete Transportation Construction Inspector American Concrete Institute International 319

Key Certifications For Occupations Relevant to Individuals with ASD

There are a lot of groups within Maryland working to provide assistance to individuals with ASD. If your organization is hiring, please consider meeting with one of these groups to learn more about how you can help meet your staffing needs by working with a neuro-diverse workforce: