The pace of technology development and adoption is accelerating across many industries. A plethora of new tools, including uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being utilized more than ever for broadening applications. However, many industries are facing a serious problem on the horizon: the future workforce. With a looming labor shortage - especially as professionals in surveying, architecture and civil engineering start to age out and retire from their positions - the question becomes: who will replace them? The answer lies in looking beyond traditional methods for recruitment and looking beyond the same familiar faces.
For Jason San Souci and Nicole Corder, co-founders of Neurodiversity Works, one community comes immediately to mind: the neurodiverse community. Neurodiversity refers to the natural variation in human neurological traits, including cognitive, behavioral, and sensory differences. It recognizes and celebrates that diverse neurological profiles, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others, contribute to the richness of human experiences and perspectives.
Neurodiversity Works was founded to address the high unemployment rate among neurodiverse individuals and provide them with the resources and opportunities they need to succeed in the workforce. By connecting the neurodiverse community with opportunities with tech and drone companies, as well as setting up support for those positions, they are beginning to build more pathways towards employment.
“When we talk about DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] goals, disabled and neurodiverse individuals are usually not part of the conversation,” says Corder, “So we’re trying to bring them in to the already important conversation and provide access to a group where we believe that there’s a huge opportunity both for the industry and this community.”
Neurodiversity Drone Camp
“This is not just building kits, this isn’t just K-12. These are people that I want to be a part of this actual industry in the next year or two."
From apprentice programs to training and workshops, Neurodiversity Works has been helping to make those connections since their founding. This July, they hosted their first “Neurodiversity Drone Camp” with the idea that they could create an engaging event that could also expose students to potential careers within the UAV industry. A partnership between Neurodiversity Works, First Community Foundation, FAA Safety Team and the Autism Society of Colorado made the event possible.
Over a two-day camp, a group of 23 students between the ages of 15-25 had an opportunity to experience instruction and hands-on experience for using drones for mapping and data collection. The tuition for the camp was fully covered, so the cost to attend was completely free, broadening the potential audience to go beyond just those with means.
The activities and sessions at the camp were aimed towards creating a realistic and hands-on approach to exploring the UAV landscape.
“The campers are at a transition age - they’re either just in or just out of high school, and they’re trying to figure out what they want to do next… I wanted them to be exposed to as many different technologies and thought leaders as possible, but in short, manageable bites over two days.”
With built-in breaks, support staff, and even a dedicated sensory area, the event was specifically built to provide a welcoming and comfortable environment.
“Our students are remarkable individuals, each with unique talents, perspectives, and the potential to make a significant impact. By fostering an inclusive environment, we aim to empower them to explore their strengths, express their thoughts, and collaborate with others who share similar experiences,” said San Souci in a post after the event.
The Neurodiversity Drone Camp organized by Neurodiversity Works has proven to be a pioneering endeavor in promoting inclusive innovation within the UAV industry. By providing hands-on experience and training to neurodiverse individuals, the camp not only inspires the next generation of aerial technology enthusiasts but also addresses the pressing need for a diverse and skilled workforce.
By fostering an inclusive environment and offering free access to the camp, Neurodiversity Works has demonstrated its commitment to creating equal opportunities for all. As these bright and talented individuals continue to embrace their strengths, perspectives, and potential impact, it is evident that the future of innovation in the UAV industry can be driven by their diverse talents and perspectives.