CHICAGO (CBS) – This is the next story shows the importance of good journalism, but also how the right actions can be beneficial both to profits and to society as a whole.
Our colleagues at “60 Minutes” showed how great employees can be with autism. This single story in the CBS news magazine led to a remarkable event in Chicago.
Brennan Novak and Brian Evans have a job that requires tremendous concentration and precision. They comb through heaps of data, making sure they are accurate for Grainger, a major industrial supply company with offices here in downtown Merchandise Mart.
“The most important thing is that the data is accurate so that customers have the right information,” Novak said.
“So if it’s something like a screw, we look in which direction the thread goes. So is it going to the right? Is it going to the left? Different details, things you don’t even think about,” Evans said.
Paige Robbins, president of Grainger’s business units, said the stakes in Novak and Evans ’work are high.
“We are a huge company, with millions of products and millions of customers. You can imagine how much information we have,” she said.
These two young people who have hard work have autism.
“Hiring people with autism has many benefits, and with some extra time to study they can be just as good or even better than people without disabilities,” Novak said.
This is the same message Dave Friedman shares with the world. Ten years ago, he founded Autonomy Works, based in Downers Grove, to create jobs for people with autism.
“Much of our mission as a company is to change the worldview of people with autism, and exposing ourselves to millions of people and being able to tell our story is a really important part of what we’re trying to do,” Friedman said.
Millions have seen.
“After the article came out, we received hundreds and hundreds of inquiries,” Friedman said.
Granger was so impressed with the 60-minute segment that they turned to Autonomy Works, and a partnership was soon born.
“The people who work at Autonomy Works have the skills and abilities to pay attention to detail, focus, be able to view a lot of data that was really necessary for us,” Robbins said.
Friedman’s motivation is personal. His son Matt has autism and now he works at Autonomy Works.
“I like that it’s a quiet office environment,” he told Anderson Cooper’s 60 Minutes.
“Back when he was in high school, we started thinking about what he could do after high school, and we realized that there’s very, very little work for adults with autism,” Friedman said.
According to Friedman, the unemployment rate among adults with autism is about 80 percent.
“I knew it wasn’t because they didn’t have the skills – Matt is really talented in a lot of things – and it inspired me to start a company; to connect people with those skills in the business world,” he said.
Connecting people like Novak and Evans who enjoy their work, and providing invaluable services to a great company.
“I feel very pleased knowing that we are doing the most accurate work for the client,” Evans said.
“It was a really great partnership,” Robbins said.
“It’s one of my favorite things. I’ve become a happier person since I started working at Autonomy Works, and that job gives me what to look forward to every day,” Novak said.
Few can say so about their work.
“No, it’s really a blessing,” Evans said.
Friedman said that when people with autism have a good job, it changes their perspective, their confidence grows, and it extends to friendship and the way they interact with others.