Walgreens, Amazon, Wawa find success with most-often unemployed workerMay 27, 2022
Walgreens has been training and employing neurodiverse workers since 2007. “What we do know, from data and research, is that this is the highest unemployed demographic in the country,” Carlos Cubia, global chief diversity officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, said of workers with disabilities.
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When Cornelia Quinn, co-founder of Go-Be, which makes reusable antimicrobial airplane tray covers, needed help to pack and fulfill orders, she looked no further than her 19-year-old son, Jake, who has autism.
As someone with autism, finding employment is challenging. More than half of young adults with autism are unemployed. Unemployment for neurodivergent adults is as high as 30% to 40%, three times the rate for people with a disability — up to 85% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed, according to a recent Deloitte report. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of conditions including autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, and dyslexia. With one in 45 adults on the autism spectrum alone, that’s a lot of untapped labor market potential.
This is a significant data point for employers amid the current labor crunch. About half of U.S. states now have unemployment rates below pre-pandemic levels — a 50-year low — while 13 states have unemployment rates below 3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means employers are struggling to fill open positions and are more willing to look more closely at previously overlooked segments of the population.
“Employers are trying multiple methods of hiring and looking at resources that may not have before, said John Dooney, HR advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management.
“Everyone is struggling to find talent out there in the marketplace,” said Carlos Cubia, global chief diversity officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance. “What we do know, from data and research, is that this is the highest unemployed demographic in the country. And that’s people with disabilities. So it’s an untapped resource that businesses can hopefully turn to.”
One stumbling block that employers face when hiring neurodiverse individuals is accommodating conditions. Since neurodiversity encompasses such a broad variety of conditions, the accommodations needed also vary broadly. Someone with sensitivity to loud noises may need headphones to muffle the sound. Others with severe dyslexia or other conditions may benefit from signage that includes pictures or is color-coded.
Since its start in 2007, Walgreens’ Transition Work Group program has helped place 1,000 individuals at the company’s distribution centers. The 13-week training program includes both classroom and on-the-job training that teaches how to pull and pack orders from the distribution center to stores.
“These individuals, once they come through the 13-week program, they are paid at the same rate as someone without a disability, they have the same expectations in terms of job…