By Jeremy Shapira
Throughout the course of my career, I have found my greatest joy comes from working with a team of highly motivated people toward a common goal and having the opportunity to help develop and enable others to reach their own personal goals.
In April 2013, my team formed a partnership with the United Way of Allegheny County, Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny County to begin the Career Transition Project. Since then, I find myself continually inspired by the incredible young people we work with to help them transition to the workforce.
There are approximately 1,000 young adults with disabilities that graduate from high school each year in Allegheny County. Forty percent of young adults ages 20 to 24 with disabilities in Allegheny County are neither in school or working.
The Career Transition Pilot Program originally launched at Giant Eagle. The original goal was to employ 24 students during the two-year pilot. Since the start of that pilot, 40 youths have been employed by Giant Eagle, and 200 young people with disabilities have received job search assistance. The project continues growing, now with hiring commitments from Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh.
The individuals with disabilities on our Giant Eagle team have stepped up to the challenge and positively impacted our customers and fellow Team Members. As the project has grown, I’ve found some amazing reasons that employing people with disabilities is good for your business:
The opportunity to tap into a talented workforce.
According to the U.S. Labor Department (2014), approximately 60 percent of people with disabilities are not in the labor force. That accounts for an entire group of workers who will show up every day willing and able to learn and perform. Employment provides individuals with disabilities a sense of purpose, which will in turn inspire a positive attitude and an eagerness to achieve their goals.
The opportunity to improve workplace culture.
The more diverse and inclusive our workforce is, the more effectively we are able to connect with consumers. That sense of inclusion brings on an employee atmosphere that increases morale and productivity.
The opportunity to reap financial benefits.
To start, many businesses who commit to hiring individuals with disabilities receive a variety of tax credits. Often times, these workers are pre-insured and do not request health insurance. Making this commitment can also expand your market share, as employees with disabilities can relate better to customers with disabilities, who represent $1 trillion in annual aggregate consumer spending.
The opportunity to be a leader and innovator.
Focus on these individuals’ abilities, not their disabilities. Everyone brings their own talents and experiences to solve problems and find creative solutions. Considering the challenges people with disabilities face in their everyday lives, they have the ability to think creatively and innovatively to bring new perspectives and ideas to your business.
The opportunity to do the right thing.
Take the initiative and commit to a better, more fulfilling work environment. Hiring individuals with disabilities is good for your business, our society and the employee.
Together, we can support this community of hard-working, determined, bright-minded individuals. It is an honor to help them succeed, so they can help create a better workplace for everyone.