Valley program trains adults with autism for workforce

Partners with Valley businesses to find right fit
Posted at 10:54 PM, Oct 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-10 01:54:59-04

Smashing stereotypes and stigmas, Hacienda Healthcare's Autism Vocational Training Program is teaching adults with autism all the skills they need to land a job.

One of the recipients of the program, Justin LeClair, has a job as a baggage handler at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and says it was all possible because of the skills he learned. 

"My dream was to work at an airport," said Justin LeClair. "And all of a sudden, look where I am now. I'm working at an airport." 

Thousands of checked bags go through Sky Harbor every day, and LeClair is part of the team that keeps the conveyor belts running. 

"My favorite part of the job is making customers smile and working as a team," LeClair said. 

And LeClair has a lot of skills. He was featured in a video from Hacienda Healthcare, showing him working in the kitchen, at reception, and in maintenance. 

"They have above average intelligence, and they are very very focused on their work," said Thomas Burick with Hacienda Healthcare.

The Autism Vocational Training program teaches problem-solving, communication skills and time management. Hacienda Healthcare also partners with Valley businesses to place adults with autism in the right jobs. 

"When we form those partnerships we try to educate along the way," Burick said. "So by the time that person is ready for employment the employer is also educated," Burick said.

Burick says they offer the opportunity, but it's up to the young adults to work hard and land a job. 

"I am proud of myself, that I have a job out in the community," LeClair said. 

And LeClair is able to do his job in a place he loves to come to each day. 

"It's so awesome to be here at the airport," LeClair said. "You see people smiling; you see people hugging, you see people loving themselves."

So far the program has placed four people in different jobs.

Currently, 26 people are being trained to join the workforce eventually.