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Work Experience Program Graduate Highlight: Erik Mollengarden

Erik Mollengarden started working as an Image Verifier at CAI, a purpose-driven business technology services firm, in December 2020. His favorite part of the job is working from home, where he uses computer software to process images of license plates from major highways for violations invoicing.

Together, Els for Autism and CAI fight to head off the hurdles that keep unemployment rates high.

The shortage of vocational training, inadequate support with job placement, and cultural stigma can be major challenges for those with autism seeking employment.

Before he landed his job at CAI, Erik received vocational training through Els for Autism’s Work Experience program at Jupiter Medical Center. When the pandemic forced the program to end early, Erik and his job coach, Howard Thomas, began working together to find a position where Erik could utilize his strengths and a work environment that values his contributions and supports his needs. CAI’s Autism2Work (A2W) program was a natural fit.

Erik’s speed of verifying an average of 300 images a shift (sometimes over 400), coupled with his accuracy in identifying errors and quickly making corrections, makes him a valuable employee.

“Erik has an amazing eye for detail and catches the subtle errors that other image verifiers might

not see,” Howard said. “We are really proud of him and his hard work.” Howard’s role as Erik’s job coach is to act as an extra layer of support for both the employer and employee.

“My job coach checks how I’m progressing, and I share my screen with him, and sometimes he observes me seeing if I’m checking the license plates correctly,” Erik said.

Through the A2W program, CAI maintains a company culture that is ready to embrace neurodiversity. CAI subject matter experts train employees who will be working with A2W associates and Team Leads are certified to work with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards(IBCCES).

As a CAI Violations Enforcement Supervisor, Otilia Lynch Thomas has found working with people on

the spectrum to be “inspiring.” While each person may have varying needs, Otilia consistently sees the same potential.  “You just have to have patience and get to know their personality,” Otilia said. “I want them to feel comfortable and succeed, just like everyone else.”