South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Riley Kaminer

CAI Autism2Work Uplifts and Empowers Neurodiverse Talent

Read Time 3 Minutes

Increasing diversity in the workplace is a major topic for business leaders in South Florida and beyond. One important – but often overlooked – part of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives is making a workplace welcoming to neurodivergent employees. Up to 20% of Americans can be classified as neurodivergent: a term that includes developmental and neurological differences such as autism, OCD, ADHD, and dyslexia.

CAI, a leading business technology services firm headquartered in Allentown, PA, is committed to helping private and public organizations drive value, improve productivity, and enhance customer experience by realizing the benefits of neurodiversity. The company, which has a major footprint in South Florida and plays an active role in our local tech scene, runs a program called CAI Autism2Work. Their unique employment model is designed to bring the neurodiverse talent pool into the workforce. CAI manages not only the recruiting, selection, and training of team members, but also the cultural integration, on-the-job supervision, skill development, and ongoing performance management.

CAI’s Michael Park, Executive Vice President, leads CAI Autism2Work. He explained to South Florida Tech Hub that the program aims to empower neurodiverse talent to pave the way towards a successful career.

“The program is about taking individuals who are extremely talented and just unable to break into the job market on their own because their neurodiversity may prevent them from making it through a typical onboarding and recruiting process,” said Park.

CAI’s Job Readiness Training invites neurodivergent individuals to showcase their talents in a supportive environment by replacing the traditional interview with an assessment and extensive evaluation. Then, upon successful completion – candidates can become eligible for an offer of employment. Once in the workplace, team members receive guidance, mentorship, coaching, on-the-job training, and continuous professional development from a neurodiversity-certified team lead.

Park emphasized that this program is a great talent pipeline at a time when the labor market is tight. “Right now, we have more positions to fill than we have available candidates,” he said. “This is an untapped talent pool.”

CAI Autism2Work was founded in 2013. But Park said that the initiative has seen “substantial growth every year,” particularly in the last two years. In 2021 alone, they realized a 38% year-over-year increase in the number of neurodivergent individuals placed in employment opportunities

Jen Boyer, a South Florida-based advisory client executive at CAI, noted that loyalty among employees is waning in the era of the so-called ‘great resignation.’

“People in this program can be some of the most loyal employees that anyone would ever have,” said Boyer. “They’re happy, confident, in a good environment and are tremendously successful.”

Boyer has seen the power of this program firsthand. A family member of hers recently went through the job readiness training. Ultimately, she said that the family member was not quite ready to work with clients. “But just watching the team work with him on a regular basis, and seeing the confidence and exposure he got, makes me choke up.”

She continued: “It was pretty amazing. He never had anything like that before.”

Boyer praised South Florida Tech Hub’s DEI efforts, spearheaded by CEO Nikki Cabus: “The efforts she’s making on expanding diversity in all of our South Florida tech communities is remarkable.”

Learn more about CAI’s neurodiversity efforts by visiting their website.

By Riley Kaminer

Member Spotlight | CAI

Read Time 4 Minutes

Business: CAI is a technology firm that helps public and private sector organizations manage digital transformations

HQ: Allentown, Pennsylvania; South Florida office in Coconut Creek

Year Founded: 1981

Employees: 4,300 worldwide; 450 in Florida

Website: https://cai.io/

 

When you interact with CAI’s employees, you can immediately tell that CAI is more than the typical tech firm. “We’re purpose driven in everything we do,” Jen Boyer, an advisory client executive who has worked at CAI for the better part of 3 decades, told Tech Hub South Florida. “We’re committed to prioritizing client success, employee well-being, and serving the community.”

CAI advises clients on how to leverage the power of the latest technologies to optimize processes and better serve their customers. Boyer pointed out that this is more important than ever, since “all companies are really tech companies” in a digital-first world. Many companies were forced into digital transformation over the past year, exposing gaps in legacy systems and a need to modernize technology and applications.

 

CAI’s Autism2Work Program Matches Candidates’ Talents with Employer Needs

It is CAI’s work in the broader community that makes them stand out from competitors. In particular, diversity is at the core of everything CAI does. The centerpiece of its diversity strategy is its Autism2Work program, which guides companies on how to employ neurodiverse workers.

This program hits home for Boyer, whose nephew has special needs. She noted the high levels of un- and under-employment that neurodiverse people tend to face. “It’s important to highlight the useful skills they can bring, like creativity and analytical thinking.” Boyer explained that employers are not typically used to hiring neurodiverse talent; however, with CAI’s help, they are able to identify tasks well suited to those with autism. According to Boyer, 184 people on the spectrum have been hired through Autism2Work so far, providing them a pathway to “thrive on their own while obtaining a meaningful career.”

CAI supports the community more broadly through CAI Cares, its philanthropic arm that has programs promoting inner city education initiatives and support for families in need. They are a company that strives to build and nurture a culture where diversity, equity, and inclusiveness are fostered, reflexive, and celebrated. CAI welcomes and recognizes all people to be their full selves where engagement and collaboration can flourish. They have also been recognized for championing the wellbeing of their own employees – more important than ever in a time of a global health crisis – having won the 2020 Wellness Award from Bravo Wellness.

 

Eye on industry trends

Working across both the private and public sectors gives CAI a uniquely comprehensive perspective on how the economy is digitizing. Modernization means many things to many people, but Boyer described her goal as streamlining clients’ tech processes by “simplifying and delivering value, not just tech.” This focus on value allows CAI to help its clients take advantage of innovative technology efficiently and cost-effectively.

Another top concern of Boyer’s clients is security. “Hackers are getting better and smarter,” noted Boyer, and companies come to CAI for the tools they need to respond. While prevention is always top of mind for Boyer’s clients, she recently noticed an increase in interest for tools that enable companies to see if they are being hacked in real time.

Recovering from Covid-19 is a major area of focus for CAI’s clients. Tyshel Sasso, a Service Delivery Manager at CAI, relishes the opportunity to help clients “come up with innovative ways to stay in business” by creating tailored solutions to fit their rapidly changing needs during the pandemic. “Adaptability is one of our major strengths,” Sasso said of CAI’s flexible approach to problem solving.

 

 

 

Opportunities in South Florida

Boyer and CAI are no newcomers to the Florida tech scene – CAI has had a presence here since 1994, Boyer since 1997. That has given them a front-seat view to the development of the regional tech ecosystem. “Tech in South Florida now has a positive connotation,” said Boyer. 

She described South Florida as a gateway to other countries, which is all the more exciting considering the “great influx of talent” the region has experienced since the onset of the pandemic. CAI is well positioned to take advantage of this growth with it’s 450-person footprint in the company’s Coconut Creek office.

Boyer explained that CAI sees ample opportunities in South Florida thanks to the diverse range of organizations that call the state home. In particular, Boyer expressed optimism about the hospitality industry, which has a large presence in Florida. Equally, Boyer noted the large number of major public sector organizations at the federal and state level in Florida. Many of these organizations are forward-thinking and can leverage CAI’s services to modernize and better serve our community.

Member Spotlight | CAI