In January 2019, Grenoble Ecole de Management launched the Data Aspergers program, which is designed to help students with Aspergers integrate the workforce. 28 such students joined the program at its launch and many companies have contributed to encouraging their integration in the workforce. After the first class of students, we look over the results of this unique program in France that combines technical and social skills training.
The goal of the program is to help students with Aspergers develop cutting-edge skills in data analysis and development all the while training social skills for the workplace. The program is delivered in partnership with ENSIMAG, an IT and applied mathematics school at Grenoble INP, and the Campus Numérique in The Alps.
“Currently, more than 20 of our first students are now employed by major organisations like CEA Grenoble, Schneider Electric, Ubisoft, SAP, Altran Technologies, Modis, and Véolia as well as startups like Diabeloop and Qapa. The City of Grenoble has also participated in the recruitment of these highly skilled profiles,” explains Laurence Sirac, director of the program at Grenoble Ecole de Management, who is also an Aspergers profile.
Multidisciplinary teams to provide training
The Data Aspergers program builds on the experience of the GEM Advanced Master’s in Big Data. The program includes online, technical training for six months, delivered by teachers from Grenoble INP and Campus Numérique in The Alps. The training also takes place at GEM over the course of several weeks in order to train social skills for the workplace. The program was designed with the help of professionals specialized in Aspergers syndrome (doctors, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, clinical psychologists,...).
Specialized coaches provided support for the Aspergers interns throughout their learning process. A certified employment coach helped them with their job search, their integration into the workplace, and also trained the teams that would be welcoming these unique profiles. “The program’s ambition is to remove negative perceptions about autism. The fact that someone is specifically tasked without supporting workplace integration is something that reassures companies and facilitates the process,” adds Laurence.
A promising first class with areas for improvement
“Certain profiles were more complex. There were issues with fatigability. Some students were unable to finish the online training. Others were unable to successfully integrate the workplace. Overall, we had 7 out of 28 recruits that were unable to complete the process. But the social impact is still hugely satisfying given our ambitious goals!”
The first group of 28 students ranged from 18 to 47 years of age with education levels ranging from high school to graduate degrees. Some profiles hadn’t even earned their high school diploma and most of the participants were unemployed due to a lack of social skills. “Despite this, one trainer from Grenoble INP noted that some students who had only the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree demonstrated that their cognitive skills were above students at the Ensimag engineering school. One of the students, who is currently doing an internship at an engineering school lab could easily join our Advanced Master’s in Big Data despite not even holding a high school degree! Another student also complete transformed between Oct. and June 2019 and was recruited by Modis!” underlines Laurence.
This fall, the second class of Data Aspergers students will begin. “We’ve already set up the first recruitment meetings with companies. The goal is to present the program content and highlight the specific mentoring provided for social skills. The classes will take place from January to June. They will be followed by the integration and collaboration period in the workplace. If companies are interested, we look forward to meeting with them!” concludes Laurence.
A free university education
The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has exonerate the Data Aspergers program from all financial costs. In addition, students who have previously worked for two years will be paid between 650 and 1,850 euros for their participation. Grenoble Ecole de Management and five partner companies (Modis, Altran Technologies, SAP, Véolia and Ubisoft) are funding the cost of teaching via the GEM Foundation, School for Business and Society.