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The Workforce Futurist: Meet the Purpose-driven Leader who is Leveraging Neurodiversity to Empower Workplaces of Tomorrow

Ben Schatzel The Workforce Futurist
Photo Courtesy: Stannum Core Solutions

By: Samantha Jones

It’s no secret that modern businesses are working hard to attract the next generation of dependable and talented employees. Simultaneously, there is a highly motivated neurodivergent population of workers who are facing a staggering 85% unemployment/underemployment rate across the country. According to Chicago-based disability labor reformist Ben Schatzel, these two realities present a potentially world-changing opportunity. 

Schatzel says, “Many autistic and neurodivergent workers are ready to provide immense value to the employers who are committed to meeting them where they are through some basic accessibility adjustments.” 

Ben Schatzel is what he has coined, “Changing Employment of Old (C.E.O)” for his neurodiverse strategy microagency, Stannum Core Solutions (SCS). 

Founded in 2022, Stannum Core was born from the basic idea that autistic workers had skilled potential comparable to their neurotypical peers and that businesses that were motivated to employ and support neurodivergent talent would be developing a competitive edge for years to come. 

Schatzel states, “The most important thing to me is that this is not charity – it’s stealth business. Modern employers are looking to diversify talent pipelines, develop universal design, and curate a culture of true inclusion and belonging.”

He adds, “Engaging with a neurodiverse workforce creates a strong entry point into these and other initiatives while providing competitive employment opportunities for workers in the community. This isn’t just about doing a nice thing. However, this is about future-proofing the business to engage with the workforce of tomorrow.” 

This vision wasn’t developed overnight. Prior to launching SCS, Schatzel had spent nearly a decade working with neurodivergent youth and adults as a classroom aide, therapist, and employment coordinator. Across all these roles, one thing became clear to Schatzel: 

There’s a disconnect between the public system and the employers out in the community. 

He explains, “I find that many employers are interested in the idea of neurodiversifying their workforce, but they don’t know how. It requires collaboration from all sides. None of this would be possible if not for strong partnerships with schools, state services, and employers. Community engagement is the foundation for our mission.” 

This phenomenon, often referred to as the “service cliff,” is exactly where Schatzel decided to position his mircroagency. With increasing diagnosis rates for autism and related neurodivergent identities, there is a growing need to create employment pathways that can bridge the gap between the public and private systems. 

Although the focus of Stannum Core rests primarily on advancing workplace accessibility for neurodivergent workers, Schatzel is adamant that this is not a one-off solution. “Neurodiversity refers to the inclusion of neurodivergent and neurotypical people alike. Our mission isn’t to create a separate approach to hiring neurodivergent workers; it’s to fundamentally re-envision a workforce strategy which is designed to universally account for all neurotypes.” 

Current employment efforts within the space of neurodivergence are predicated on outdated models such as subminimum wage employment, sheltered workshops, and job carving. 

“It might be one of the biggest issues that nobody is really talking about,” Schatzel adds. 

“Imagine walking into a job interview and being offered less than minimum wage. That’s the reality for many of the job seekers that we are working with, but they are capable of much, much more and our employer partners are seeing that in real time.” 

Through a partnership-based method, SCS and its employer partners develop a tactical approach to job development, recruiting, onboarding, and retention through the use of Stannum Core’s proprietary Spectrum Certified® hiring process; however, there’s only a touch of secret sauce. 

“It’s about going back to basics. What’s the job? How does the workflow through the job? How do we measure success? How is the manager communicating with the employee? Once we build a strong foundation, then it’s all about skill-matching the right person for the right job. I’d say it’s 98% common sense and 2% behavioral theory.”  

This technique has yielded significant results for employer partners across the Midwest region.

Since the beginning of 2024, SCS has successfully placed and retained six employees, with more on the way. 

Schatzel sums it up, “There’s no silver bullet to workforce development. This is very strategic and focused. We’re intentional about where we place people, how we retain them, and the velocity at which we scale. The goal is to transform susceptibility into sustainability.” 

Published by: Martin De Juan

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