We Need More Autistic People In “The Trades”: Career and Technical Education (CTE) Has To Become Neurodiverse

When Steve’s computer wouldn’t turn on last Saturday, he yelled up the stairs for Ian to help out. Ian ran to the garage and got the right screwdrivers. He put that big Dell unit on its side on the floor and opened it up. He removed the innards of the machine, unplugging and plugging in the various components. After three minutes, he looked up and said, “it’s the power supply.” 

Ian loaded the unit up into the back of the car — an EMT and his patient — we raced to Best Buy, the big box electronics store, because they have a PC repair service in the store called The Geek Squad. We paid them $200, they opened it up, and they said, “it’s the power supply.” 

Afterwards, I asked the pleasant young man behind the counter how he got his job. Did he have a computer science degree? He said that he hadn’t taken any computer college classes, but had picked up information on his own. He explained that the guys in the backroom, who will install the new component and do diagnostics on the machine tonight, took online Geek Squad classes, passed tests, and got certified — also no college education. 

The lightbulb went on: Ian could do that. 

In 2023, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2020 data. Despite the high prevalence of this disability, 85 percent of adults with autism are unemployed. The neurodiverse population would be better served by a fulfilling job than a government hand-out. We need smart career support for autistic adults, provided by public schools, state labor departments, or non-profit organizations.

Read more at The Great Leap, my Wednesday newsletter