SRP participates in program to hire autistic people

Arizona public power utility Salt River Project is among the first of three organizations participating in a new Arizona program aimed at providing employment for people with autism.

The goal of the Phoenix Precision Project is to create as many as 500 jobs for people with autism and disabilities in the next three years and up to 1,000 jobs by 2025.

SRP, along with Arizona’s Department of Economic Security and Mobile Mini, is participating in the program. The program fits in with Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s Employment First executive order signed in November 2017, which is designed to expand employment opportunities for disabled Arizonans.

The Phoenix Precision Project is being led by The Precisionists, a Wilmington, Del., firm that advises and assists companies in hiring people with disabilities. Denise Resnik, the founder of First Place, a Phoenix-based, non-profit developer of residential communities for people with autism, reached out to The Precisionists to come to Arizona.

Program participants are assessed, trained and employed by The Precisionists and carry out project-based work, including software development, software testing, database analytics, cybersecurity, back office accounting, data entry and auditing of reports.

Through the Phoenix Precision Project, SRP in October hired eight full time The Precisionists Inc. associates in its information technology department, but SRP does not pay them directly. It pays The Precisionists, which acts as an employment agency for the eight individuals plus one Precisionists staffer who manages The Precisionists Inc. associates. The employment contract is for one year.

“We are doing this because it meets some of our goals and initiatives for diversity and inclusion, and it makes smart business sense,” Stephanie Winn, SRP’s manager of talent acquisition, said. The Precisionists checked all the boxes for how “we could move this to the next level,” she said. “They made it easy for us to get involved.”

Historically, SRP often used contractors to fill the positions that are being filled by the Phoenix Precision program. Many of those positions are often repetitive and can be challenging to keep filled on an ongoing basis, so there can be high turnover, Winn said.

So far, the Phoenix Precision program is coming along “really well,” Winn said. They are all full time positions, and they are all paid competitive wages, she added. “Right now, we are looking to expand the program within the company. We are working on getting other departments to sign on,” Winn said.