NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
In addition to assisting individuals with disabilities prepare for, secure, retain, advance in or regain employment through the provision of vocational rehabilitation (VR) services, state VR agencies provide training and other services to employers who have hired or are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities under the VR program. A few state VR agencies in the Midwest have demonstrated how uniquely positioned they are to meet the needs of both individuals with disabilities and employers through their partnership with Kwik Trip, a family-owned business of convenience stores.
Several years ago, Kwik Trip realized its ability to deliver exemplary customer services was sometimes hampered by the range of functions its Guest Services Coworkers had to manage while also being available to serve customers, especially at busy times of the day. To address this issue, Kwik Trip developed a new position, the Retail Helper, but early efforts to implement the position within the company were unsuccessful—until the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation proposed a solution. The state VR agency would serve as a single point of contact to implement a uniform approach to designing the Retail Helper position by recruiting individuals with disabilities and training them to be successful.
The partnership in Wisconsin provided quick results and Kwik Trip soon replicated the model with Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Iowa, where the company operates as Kwik Star, and Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services.
Today, Retail Helpers in stores across all three states handle a range of responsibilities allowing Guest Services Coworkers more time to focus on customer service.
Currently, roughly half the company’s 634 stores employ Retail Helpers. Not only do state VR agencies help recruit and train individuals with disabilities for the positions, but they provide ongoing supports, as appropriate, including supported employment services.
After five years, the partnership has been a boon not just for recruitment, but also retention. In 2017, the rate of turnover among Retail Helpers was just 9 percent compared to 45 percent for all part-time employees. Many Retail Helpers have been promoted to Guest Services Coworkers—creating new opportunities for them and those hired to take their place.
For these reasons and more, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation recognized Kwik Trip as its 2018 National Employment Team’s Business of the Year.
For more information about the VR programs that collaborate with Kwik Trip, please visit our partners at the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services; Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services; and Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
In recognition of NDEAM and in partnership with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), OSERS highlights one of the many successful business partnerships that state VR agencies have developed across the country.
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