Walgreen Co. has launched a national training initiative to help people with disabilities gain retail and customer service skills.

Walgreens, Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative, REDI, in-store training program, vocational rehabilitation, people with disabilities, Mark Wagner, Dallas/Forth Worth, distribution center, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Windsor, Allsup disability study

Other Services
Reprints / E-Prints
Submit News
White Papers

Retail News Breaks

Walgreens begins training program for workers with disabilities

May 14th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. has launched a national training initiative to help people with disabilities gain retail and customer service skills.

Called the Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative (REDI), the in-store training program will work closely with community organizations and vocational rehabilitation agencies to train and develop candidates, Walgreens said Monday.

Plans call for REDI's first phase of REDI to begin in parts of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin and to reach all states by the end of 2013, according to Walgreens.

The drug chain said that once a local agency is identified, a four-week training program goes into effect, in up to five stores per district. The aim is to ready qualified candidates for jobs in stores as well as positions in any retail setting requiring similar skills. Duties include cash register operations, customer service, merchandising, store inventory, and maintaining store signage and displays.

Walgreens noted that an earlier initiative led to 10% of the workforce at its 20 distribution centers being made up of people with disabilities. The company said hopes to see the same level of success with REDI.

In 2010, the pharmacy chain piloted the REDI program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, bringing together Walgreens store managers and job coaches funded by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services to train candidates. After more than 200 trainees and 66% of REDI graduates were recommended for hire, the program grew to over 150 stores in Texas, New York and Connecticut. To date, about 400 externs have finished training, and more than 46% have been employed by Walgreens or other retailers, the company said.

"We are committed to helping customers live well, stay well and get well, and to do that you need team members who are dedicated to excellent customer service," Mark Wagner, president of operations and community management at Walgreens, said in a statement. "This program highlights ability and gives candidates the tools to be successful in any retail setting. This is a meaningful program for everyone touched by the initiative. Already, one enthusiastic REDI graduate now working for Walgreens in New York was named Customer Service Employee of the Month, just three months after being hired."

Walgreens added that it began designing its distribution centers and training for people with disabilities with the opening of its facility in Anderson, S.C., in 2007. That distribution center, followed by the opening of a similar facility in Windsor, Conn., in 2009, helps drive opportunity and productivity for the entire workforce, according to the company.

The drug chain reported that according to a 2012 Allsup disability study analysis based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is much higher than for those with no disabilities.

More Retail News Breaks >>