“THANK YOU for the quiet room option,” read the multicolored marker note on the dry-erase board.
“YES!” another emphatic note agreed.
“Thank goodness you had games for us to play! Stellar idea.”
These real-world reviews were left by participants after The Enterprise Center’s Networking & Neurodiversity event, a quarterly workforce development initiative held in partnership with the City of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Autism Center, Chattanooga State Community College, UTC, Game On Chatt, and other area partners. Last year, the event won the Chattanooga Area Employment Consortium’s Advocate of the Year Award, in addition to attracting attendees from as far as Johnson City.
Created as an alternative to traditional happy hour networking events, Networking & Neurodiversity prioritizes creating distinct spaces for conversation, connection, and quiet to provide an opportunity for attendees to engage in ways they are most comfortable. (The next one takes place Wednesday, Jan. 24. Details here.)
With spaces for employer and resource tabling, small conversation or breakaway rooms, dedicated multiplayer game stations (facilitated by Game On Chatt) and a food and beverage area, the focus is on providing options for attendees to customize how they experience the event while also encouraging employers to get to know qualified potential applicants they may not meet otherwise.
For Carla Elliot, a disability awareness advocate and member of the Mayor’s Council on Disability, the event is unique in the ways it addresses barriers to access for the neurodiverse community — but she hopes that won’t always be the case.
“Networking & Neurodiversity … is a movement,” she said of the event series and the momentum building behind it. “It’s about meeting people where they are.”
According to The Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is at or above 40% — three times higher than for those with disabilities, and eight times higher than for those without a disability.
And, that is a conservative estimate, one that in all likelihood is higher. But it’s not just individuals seeking employment who suffer when networking and workplace opportunities are inaccessible; at the same time, job vacancies in a wide range of industries remain unfilled as employers struggle to connect with qualified candidates.
“To make life better for all Chattanoogans is the goal,” Elliot added.
Networking & Neurodiversity’s next quarterly happy hour will be held on Floor Five at The Edney this Wednesday, January 24 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. RSVP here.
Although the event is geared toward those who are neurodiverse, Networking & Neurodiversity is open to anyone — employer or employee — looking to connect.
For tabling or sponsorship opportunities at future events, contact email@example.com.