Walgreens launches new drive to hire workers with disabilities

DEERFIELD, Ill. Spurred by the success of its efforts to employ disabled workers at its distribution centers, Walgreens is launching a pilot program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to broaden its workforce and disability inclusion initiatives beyond its warehouses and into the retail setting.

The goal: to hire people with disabilities to fill 10% of the service clerk openings at stores in the area. On average, Walgreens hires more than 1,600 service clerks a year in the Dallas/Fort Worth market alone.

Driving the new initiative is Walgreens’ SVP supply chain and logistics, Randy Lewis, whose efforts to broaden the company’s hiring initiatives on behalf of disabled workers, have led to breakthroughs in hiring practices within the company’s DCs, without sacrificing efficiency or productivity. Lewis has spearheaded the drive for a more “integrated and inclusive workplace,” noted a Walgreens spokesperson.

“We’ve designed facilities and training for people with disabilities to help drive opportunity, efficiency and productivity at our distribution centers,” said Lewis. “Now, we’re taking those tools and bringing them to the store level to help create and maintain a diversified workforce. Emphasizing people’s abilities is our strength that will help everyone succeed.”

Behind the new pilot program: a partnership between Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services [DARS] and the Walgreens Waxahachie distribution center. That effort resulted in a successful spin-off training program for Walgreens stores, which led to the new pilot, according to the chain.

Worker training lasts about four weeks and will take place in at least 10 area store locations. The goal, said Walgreens, is to prepare qualified candidates for store positions, as well as positions in any business that requires the same kind of skills — and ultimately to see them hired.  

“This initiative shows how we can use our community relationships to help everyone we serve,” said Erv Siemoneit, Walgreens’ Dallas market VP. “Once this pilot program is proven successful,” added Lewis, “we intend to expand it to other markets around the country in 2011.”

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