SAS Autism Spectrum Internship Program wins NACE Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award

Technical students on the autism spectrum gain valuable experience helping create the next generation of SAS® software

A SAS internship program that provides opportunities to students on the autism spectrum has earned the company recognition from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). SAS has been named the winner of the 2019 NACE Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award.

The company’s Autism Spectrum Internship Program provides students who self-identify on the autism spectrum with a tailored interviewing process and onboarding experience to bridge the gap between academic and on-the-job learning. The purpose is to focus on the critical skills necessary to do the job – the strengths of these students – and remove barriers to obtaining meaningful employment using a traditional interview process geared toward neurotypical individuals.

“I am proud to work for a company that recognizes the need for and the potential of neurodiversity. Inclusion and diversity are strengths,” said Oliver Schabenberger, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer of SAS. “The Autism Spectrum Internship Program tears down barriers for interns on the autism spectrum. The majority of autistic individuals have exceptional talents, often in technical domains. Their unemployment and underemployment rate exceeds 80%. We can do better.”

Interns are placed in high-responsibility, complex technical roles at SAS, working with teams within the R&D division, designing, building and testing the next generation of SAS software.

“I applied to SAS for the opportunity to be authentically autistic after years of hiding it in public,” said Chris Rackley, a SAS R&D intern and computer science student at Western Governors University. “My manager gives me clear and upfront expectations, every accommodation I have needed has been made, and the work I’m doing is challenging, engaging and meaningful. My team gives me the time I need to consider issues before I answer, and they take the time and consideration necessary to include me in discussions. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m genuinely excited to start each day of work.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award is one of five awards given to organizations annually by NACE. The NACE Honors and Awards Committee evaluates programs on criteria such as creativity, innovation, objectives and design.

Beyond the Autism Spectrum Internship Program, SAS maintains a strong commitment to diversity through other initiatives, such as collaborations with the TEACCH Autism Program, Arc of the Triangle and the Wake County Public School System, to provide full-time and part-time employment to people with disabilities. SAS also helps host an engineering camp for visually impaired and blind students and partners with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to host an annual STEM Career Showcase for Students With Disabilities. Learn more about SAS’ commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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