Melwood’s ‘abilIT’ program trains people of differing abilities for entry-level cybersecurity jobs


This content is sponsored by Melwood

Melwood, one of the largest employers of people of differing abilities in the country, is embarking on an innovative project to provide cybersecurity and IT training to people on the autism spectrum.

The “abilIT” pilot program launches later this month in Arlington, Va., and is actively recruiting people of differing abilities for the program which will prepare participants to sit for the programming certification exams needed for entry-level cybersecurity jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, there are approximately 350,000 unfilled positions in the cybersecurity industry. As demand continues to exceed the supply of available workers, the U.S. is on pace to hit a half million or more unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.

“People of differing abilities represent one of the most promising and readily available entry-level cybersecurity pipelines in the nation,” says Cari DeSantis, Melwood’s President and CEO. “We have two problems that can solve each other: under-employment of people of differing abilities and the inability to fill tech jobs.”

According to the Autism Institute, two-thirds of young people with autism are unemployed, and more than 500,000 young people on the autism spectrum will enter the job market in the next 10 years. Melwood believes that many people on the autism spectrum have unique abilities that could aid them in this type of work, including visual and systematic thinking, meticulous attention to detail, and an affinity for repetitive tasks.

Melwood’s abilIT Pilot

The abilIT pilot program will consist of 15 students of differing abilities and injured veterans.  The program requires a high school diploma or equivalent and ninth grade reading and math skills. In addition, veterans living with service-related traumas, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, are welcome to apply.

The program consists of 12 weeks of training, including job development, coaching, and placement – the wrap-around care and maintenance that is the cornerstone of Melwood’s 55-year long success. The six-month pilot phase includes an evaluation component to measure outcomes of the job training and development and the impact on participants. Recruitment begins in December and continues on a rolling basis.

Melwood has partnered with Cybrary, the provider of the nation’s largest massive open online course (MOOC) in cybersecurity. Cybrary is an industry-leader in cybersecurity training and has donated their services to the abilIT program.

“It’s incredibly exciting to have Cybrary on board,” says DeSantis. “It demonstrates that the technology industry is thinking ahead and saying ‘yes’ to including people of differing abilities.”

Melwood is a Workforce Solution

“Inclusion drives innovation,” says DeSantis. “Education policy and technology have laid the groundwork for an inclusive workforce by making classrooms accessible to people of differing abilities. But education alone hasn’t translated to jobs. Melwood can help bridge the gap between the classroom and the office.”

Career exploration and professional development training have been the cornerstone of Melwood’s success for 55 years.

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from the abilIT program, please contact Program Coordinator Patrick Finley at Please visit for more information.

To support this exciting new initiative, please consider donating either cash or your used car to Melwood.

About Melwood

Melwood is one of the largest employers of people of differing abilities in the country, employing more than 1,600 workers – nearly 1,000 of whom are people of differing abilities. Melwood offers job placement, job training, life skills for independence, and support services to more than 2,500 people each year in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Melwood also has an inclusive summer camp program for children and provides employment and support services to veterans and active duty military members who have experienced service-related trauma or injury. For more information, visit

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