Curious about inclusive hiring, over 30 of Boston’s leading retail and hospitality leaders gathered recently to learn more about Transitions to Work and its innovative approach to preparing young adults with disabilities for career success. Representatives from organizations including Legal Sea Foods, Panera Bread, The Fireplace, CEO Destination Male, Wegmans, Anton’s Cleaners, Saunders Hotel Group, Boston Children’s Museum, The Museum of Science, and Museum of Fine Arts left the meeting inspired and excited to do more to hire individuals of all abilities. CVS Caremark and Whitsons Culinary Group, current employers of Transitions to Work graduates, spoke passionately about the program and their Transitions to Work employees. Transitions graduates are among their most loyal and dedicated staff and their work effort had inspired other employees and encouraged leadership growth. April Liles, Food Service Director – Newton Public Schools Whitsons School Nutrition, is a big supporter. Initially an opportunity to partner with the community, April says the experience has been better than ever anticipated. In addition to adding diversity to the current team, working with individuals with disabilities motivates the work group to new successes and increases productivity of the team. Ronnie Ramoutarsingh proudly to announced that a Transitions graduate was named a CVS Caremark Employee of the Week, a true measure of how effectively Transitions to Work trained the for success.

Hiring individuals with disabilities is doing the right thing, and also good for business. Individuals with disabilities and their families reflect an expanding customer base supportive of companies with inclusive hiring. The large and growing market of people with disabilities has $250 billion in discretionary spending, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than four times the spending power of the demographically desirable teen market. An Open Doors Organization study estimated that diners with disabilities spend at least $35 billion in restaurants each year. The study found that more than 75% of people with disabilities eat out at restaurants at least once a week. The New York Times reported that spending by travelers with disabilities exceeds $13.6 billion annually.

Transitions to Work, a collaboration among Combined Jewish Philanthropies, The Ruderman Family Foundation, and Jewish Vocational Service, is a high quality supported employment program for young adults with disabilities and based on an intensive 12 week training and internship cycle. Transitions to Work changes the traditional model of job skills training and is focused on training participants to meet and exceed the needs and requirements of an employer. Graduates are job-ready and qualified candidates. Transitions to Work current training and internship partners include: CVS Caremark, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Hebrew Senior Life’s NewBridge on the Charles, and Whitson’s Culinary Group. Over 60% of Transitions to Work graduates have earned jobs including at CVS Caremark, Prime Motor Group, Pooch Palace, Whitson’s, NewBridge on the Charles, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Star Market, Fresh Pond Cinema, The Goddard House, The Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, Au Bon Pain, Margarita’s, and Hannaford’s.

Transitions to Work builds relationships with employers to educate and raise awareness about inclusive hiring practices and engages corporate partners to consider young adults with disabilities as qualified, committed candidates for appropriate employment opportunities. The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is, on average, twice as high as the general population. Individuals with disabilities are an underused pool of talented, skilled, and qualified applicants who become incredibly able, dedicated and successful colleagues.

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