While the state is still experiencing a labor shortage, some companies have succeeded in filling vacancies from a pool of candidates that many others haven’t yet considered – skilled workers with disabilities. From small, family-owned businesses to Fortune 500 companies, workers with disabilities are making a meaningful impact on the operations of businesses across the state. Here are 3 who have shared their stories and how the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services was a valuable partner in helping them find and retain talent.
Travelers– Hartford is home to the largest office of this global insurance company and where about 20 workers with disabilities are currently employed. Travelers has had a long-running commitment to hiring talent of different abilities and has an internal Disability Employee Network. Jim McMahon from Travelers Talent Acquisition says that hiring diverse talent has helped the company from various perspectives. “We’re a more competitive business because we’re hiring a more inclusive employee population,”. He added, “I’ve received a number of notes not just from individuals but managers and the general employee population on how proud they are that we’re involved in this kind of work.”
He credits working closely with BRS for the organization’s ability to hire workers with disabilities successfully. “The partnership with BRS has really helped us focus on people’s abilities rather than disabilities. They understood what we were looking to accomplish, they helped mentor us, coach us, guide us along the way. We’ve really formed a true partnership in creating the program that we have,” Mr. McMahon added.
Advanced Auto Parts– Steve Dean, general manager of the Advance Auto Parts Enfield Distribution Center, one of 44 distribution centers across the U.S., says that the company recognized there was a large pool of workers that presented an opportunity for them. “We saw it as an opportunity to open a door for people that may not have had an opportunity elsewhere,” said Dean, who has a disability himself. He encourages other businesses to consider hiring workers with disabilities and says one common misconception is that it will cost a lot of money. “Respecting people, being patient, training people the right way, adding communication resources, that doesn’t cost anything. We do things to make people feel like they’ve made an impact on the operation. Those things are free,” he said.
“The partnership with BRS and Advance Auto Parts has been tremendous for the success of our team members that are coming in,” added Training Supervisor Anthony Girard, the person responsible for new hire orientation and training at the facility. His message to employers who are considering hiring people with different disabilities is to just to do it. “It’s only going to enrich the culture you’re building; it helped team members bond and learn about each other, strengthening our in-house facility.”
Dean also believes that as senior leadership, our job is to not just break the barriers down but kick them in. Create that opportunity for people, and when you do that, when senior leadership takes a stance and says “this is what we’re going to do because it’s the right thing to do” which is what they’ve done at AAP, that’s what stops any fears and concerns about hiring people with disabilities.
Unbakeables– This small business in Norwalk has worked with BRS since 2017 to hire 3 workers with disabilities over the years. “We are a family-owned business and bringing anyone in is always a concern,” said Unbakeables Cofounder Corey Tolkin. “When we looked at hiring with BRS, we knew BRS had our back in regard to job coaching, with regards to assistance or anything else that we needed.”
Unbakeables has hired workers who are deaf and created a safe environment where they could have meaningful employment and contribute to the growth of the business. “BRS made it really easy to hire people. I know that hiring a person with disabilities will come with a job coach or an interpreter or somebody to help with assistance,” she added.
The company has taken advantage of BRS’s Trainee Wage Reimbursement program, which reimburses businesses 130 percent for the wages it pays during the training period for a new employee. “We know with BRS we’re getting vetted employees. BRS are the first people I recommend when I talk to any small business that’s hesitant about hiring somebody,” Tolkin said. “New companies have never hired people before; BRS has hired people before, they vet people, they know where you’re at, they know what you’re doing and they’re always there.”