“The Autism Center goes beyond providing employment services,” said Lewis C. Chartock, Ph.D., President and CEO of MERS Goodwill. “We provide our clients with opportunities for social interactions, skill development, and greater personal dignity.”
The Autism Employment Program focuses on acquiring work appropriate skills, broadening community social integration abilities, coaching and post-employment services, and independent living skills for St. Louis area residents with ASD. Since its inception, the Autism Employment Program has served 70 individuals through appointments and walk-ins. Out of those 70 clients, the program has had an 85 percent placement rate, taking approximately seven weeks to place a client in a new position. The program currently has a 100-percent retention rate for individuals placed into employment.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of January 2014, the Labor Force participation rate for people with disabilities was only 18.2%, compared to 68.3% for people without disabilities. Likewise, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 13.3%, which is 50% higher than the rate for people without disabilities (6.8%).
“The St. Louis region is reflective of the nation in our need for additional services for individuals with ASD,” said Mark Arens, Executive Vice President and Chief of Program Services for MERS Goodwill. “The Autism Employment Center acts as a resource for ASD services and best practices for our other locations and service programs. While we are proud of all of the services we provide to 55,000 people in the community, this program stands apart.”
About MERS Goodwill
MERS Goodwill is a non-profit agency that provides for the vocational needs of individuals who have barriers to employment through disability or economic disadvantage. Annually serving nearly 50,000 individuals, the organization operates in 63 locations serving 74 counties in the bi-state area. Revenues from 42 Goodwill stores assist with funding MERS Goodwill job training and employment services. MERS Goodwill is a proud member of the United Way. For more information about MERS Goodwill or to find a Goodwill donation center near you, call 314-241-3464 or visit www.mersgoodwill.org.