Autistic Employment

Q1 2019

J.P Morgan’s Training and Autism Employment Programmes:
Another Legacy of Jamie Dimon’s?


The business world is well aware of Jamie Dimon’s meteoric rise through American Express, Commercial Credit and Citigroup, his lateral move to Bank One (relocating to Chicago) before its acquisition by J.P. Morgan (JPM) in 2004 and becoming CEO in 2006. His record since speaks for itself.


However, what they might not be aware of is Jamie’s focus on pragmatic solutions to skills gap that can make it hard for companies to find qualified candidates for certain positions. JPM’s new $350 million five year jobs training plan, announced in March 2019, is designed to train workers for the future. It includes $200 million to develop training programs for in-demand digital and technical roles and $125 million to boost collaboration between employers and the educational system. It also includes $25 million to help spread labour market data and analysis to enable companies to focus on ways to lift people out of low-wage positions. Jamie also stated that JPM stopped giving philanthropic dollars to colleges years ago, as these were not philanthropies. Instead, it focuses on community colleges and training programmes.


Autism At Work


This most recent JPM jobs training announcement follows the innovative and highly successful Autism at Work programme, launched in 2015 as a 4 -person pilot. The program, which is dedicated to hiring employees with autism and facilitating their professional growth, was designed to overcome barriers to employment for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These barriers can include things like traditional interview processes and communication styles, and thus contribute to only 15-20% of autistic adults who have full time employment.


Six months into the pilot program, the results were dramatic. Compared to peers, the Autism At Work employees were 48 percent faster and as much as 92 percent more productive. The programme has grown to over 100 people in 20+ roles, representing 10 lines of business in six countries (as at September 2018). Most of the roles are technology functions, such as software engineering, app development, quality assurance, tech operations and business analysis, but one employee is a personal banker. (At Autistic Advisors, we suspect there are other existing ASD employees within the bank who feel comfortable with the new recruits and who engage positively with them – producing a type of musical harmonics within the programme).


James Mahoney, Global Head of the programme, said he and JPM see employees with autism as an unexploited talent pool. “For us, that’s a talent pool. If you look at areas like technology – there’s a huge shortage of good people with high-level skills. It’s a sector that we know many autistic people excel in.” “Our aspiration now is to get to 300 people in the program by 2020 and we’re focusing on 14 locations,” Mahoney said. There are multiple factors that contribute to this success, but the commonalities are strong visual acuity, attention to detail and a superior ability to concentrate,” Mahoney said. Approximately 60% of people with ASD also have average/above average intelligence.


JPM’s experience is consistent with a joint study between the University of Montreal and Harvard University which found that individuals with autism were able to problem solve 40% faster than their peers and were as much as 140 % more productive than their peers. Researchers theorized that participants with autism benefit from more advanced perception and processing abilities.



Building Future Recruiting Pipelines


In the early days of the programmes, JPM’s efforts to hire people with autism were focused in the USA with 58 autistic employees at year end 2017.  However, in November 2017, it announced a partnership with Bath University’s (UK) Centre for Applied Autism Research to launch the Bath Employment Spring School for Autism (BESSA),  a free two-day event for students and recent graduates on the autism spectrum. It aims to help with the transition from university to a range of opportunities including internships, placements and graduate employment.


Thirty then current students and recent graduates with ASD took part in the initial BESSA at JPM’s Bournemouth campus in 2018. BESSA complements the university’s Autism Summer School which has been run since 2013 to help younger students with autism transition to University. The second annual (2019) BESSA programme was just recently held.


In September 2018, the University of Delaware launched a Spectrum Scholars programme.  This programme, backed by a 10-year, multi-million dollar commitment from JPM is designed to support students with autism so they can succeed at the university and have greater opportunities for fulfilling careers, especially in the computer science fields. The partnership is planning to start small (five to eight students a year) and not commence until the fall of 2019, so that both parties can carefully prepare the ecosystem of professors, managers, colleagues, staff and students to work with people on the autism spectrum.


Additionally, JPM develops its candidate pipelines through non for profit organisations, social services departments and various educational institutions: combined with external training for managers and non ASD employees.


While we track all of the major employers of autistic talent on this website, including most of the current 15 members of the Autism @ Work Roundtable, we know of no other major organisation- globally – to have demonstrated the focus on jobs training, and in particular the success to date of Autism At Work- which arguably could prove even more important over time than any of Jamie’s major acquisitions during his illustrious career.

© Music for Autism International 2019. All rights reserved. Reproduction by permission only of the Author of this document, Music for Autism International (MFAI).

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