Neurodiversity Program First of its Kind in the Construction Industry

A group of diverse and talented San Franciscans became the first graduating cohort of the SFPUC’s inaugural Neurodiversity Pilot Program made possible through partnerships with community-based organization The Arc San Francisco, private construction and engineering firms Sundt/Walsh, Brown & Caldwell, Stantec, and Webcor, and government agencies the California Department of Rehabilitation and the SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Graduates of the SFPUC Neurodiversity Program.

Since its launch in November, the Neurodiversity Pilot Program has been one of the first initiatives in the nation to provide training and career development in the construction and engineering industry for individuals in the neurodiverse community, which includes autism, down syndrome, severe ADHD or other learning differences diagnosed as significant barriers to employment.

The six-month program, collaboratively designed with the SFPUC Workforce and Economic Programs team, alleviates barriers by providing on-the-job experience and access to career opportunities with firms that partner with the Agency. After the initial six-month “interview”, firms have the opportunity to directly hire these now-trained workers with a proven record of meeting the job requirements as direct employees of the firm. These workers can help firms meet their First Source Hiring requirements and ensure the SFPUC’s capital investments have beneficial direct impacts on the communities that it serves.

SFPUC Workforce Development Manager Masood Ordikhani (left) and General Manager Harlan Kelly, Jr. (middle) with Natalie Chiu (right), one of the program graduates.

While participants are hosted at the firm’s offices, typical job duties include a wide array of administrative tasks, database updating and communication tracking. Additionally, the trainees have access to supplementary support services, including a job coach who provides support at the work site.

“We are proud to join forces with the SFPUC and its partners in the Neurodiversity Pilot Program initiative,” said Kristen Pedersen, Chief of Services, Education and Workforce Inclusion for The Arc San Francisco. “This program is the first of its kind in the construction industry and represents a huge step forward in expanding the workforce to include individuals with developmental disabilities.”

In collaboration with SFPUC partners, the program was recently recognized with an Innovator of the Year award by a nationally recognized leader in workforce training for this community. In addition, one of the graduates from the program was recognized as Intern of the Year for her outstanding efforts and personal perseverance throughout the six-month program.

SFPUC staff and Neurodiversity Program partners with the graduates.