Walgreens helps create more job opportunities for people with disabilities in Connecticut

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Nearly one year after launching an initiative to help create more job opportunities for people with disabilities in Connecticut, 62 participants have completed training under the Walgreens Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative program, the retailer announced on Wednesday.

The program’s goal: To prepare qualified candidates for employment at Walgreens retail locations, as well as employment with other retailers that require similar skills. Of those who completed training, 17 have already obtained jobs at Walgreens locations throughout Connecticut.

Walgreens launched REDI in the state on Nov. 1, 2011. The in-store extern training program aims to help people with disabilities gain retail and customer service skills, and works closely with community organizations and vocational rehabilitation agencies to train and develop candidates. Walgreens is working with the state’s Bureau of Rehabilitation Services to assist with training for the REDI program. The program prepares participants for responsibilities that include cash register operations, customer service, merchandising, store inventory and maintaining store signage and displays.

This May, Walgreens launched the REDI program nationally. The first phase of REDI includes parts of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin, with plans to reach all states by the end of 2013. Once a local agency is identified, there is a four-week training program that takes place in up to five stores per district. The REDI pilot began in Dallas/Fort Worth in 2010. After more than 200 trainees completed the program, 66% of whom were recommended for hire, the program grew to more than 60 stores throughout Texas, New York and Connecticut.

To date, more than 400 candidates have completed REDI training. Of those, 66% of trainees acquired the full skill-set needed to perform a service clerk position in a similar retail setting. Walgreens has hired nearly 130 people.

This month, Walgreens was named 2012 Employer of the Year by the U.S. Business Leadership Network. The organization is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan business-to-business network promoting workplaces, marketplaces and supply chains where people with disabilities are included. Walgreens received this honor for its continued commitment to helping people with disabilities develop productive and successful careers.

Walgreens Distribution Centers

Walgreens began designing its distribution center facilities and training for people with disabilities with the opening of its DC in Anderson, S.C., in 2007. The new DC, followed by the opening of another similar facility in Windsor, Conn., in 2009, helps drive opportunity, efficiency and productivity for the entire workforce. At the Connecticut facility, more than 40% of the workforce consists of people with disabilities.