Advance Auto Parts is making a priority of hiring people with disabilities at its warehouse in Remington and plans to roll out the program to all its stores in Northwest Indiana.
The national car parts retailer has 18 Advance Auto Parts and Carquest stores in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties and a distribution center at 3568 U.S. 24 in Remington.
Built in 2012, the warehouse in Jasper County employs about 300 people and serves about 322 Advance Auto Parts and Carquest stores across Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin.
"We began building a program to hire people with disabilities about a year and a half ago," said David Silverman, who leads the company's Different Abilities hiring program. "We went to school to learn lessons from companies that built successful programs like Walgreens and UPS."
Advance Auto Parts launched pilot programs in Colorado, Delaware and Ohio. It now has the Different Abilities program that hires and trains job seekers with disabilities in a dozen of its more than 40 distribution centers nationwide.
The long-term goal is to roll it out to all 2,000 stores. Over time, Advance Auto Parts aims to hire at least 5,000 people with disabilities at its distribution centers, stores and corporate headquarters.
"It's the right thing for our communities and the right thing for our business," Silverman said. "Hiring people with disabilities dramatically helps retention. We want to be an employer of choice for people with disabilities."
The company hires and trains people with a number of different disabilities, including those who are deaf, hard of hearing or autistic.
"We have multiple training programs as part of the inclusion, including disability awareness," he said.
Margaret Ganz, the human resources manager at the Remington warehouse, said the initiative has been well-received so far.
"Before we hire, we do training internally," she said. "It's an opportunity for gainful employment and a successful career."
About 11 people with disabilities have been hired in Remington since Advance Auto Parts first rolled out the program at the 500,000-square-foot facility in December.
"They've all been retained," she said. "There's been no turnover. It speaks to the success of the program. We even had one team member who wanted to learn American Sign Language so they could connect to the new team members."
Translators help the employees integrate into the workforce. Training is tailored individually to each new hire.
"We want them to feel valued and connected," she said. "Engagement is critical to our success."
It's a segment of the workforce that's been historically underutilized, Ganz said.
"In the United States, about 19% of people with disabilities are unemployed," she said. "There's a large population of individuals who are ready and able to work. We're recruiting them to work for Advance Auto Parts to fill these open positions. We value inclusion and champion and embrace diversity. It helps them to be successful and helps us grow."