As Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month arrives, Medtronic, Inc., headquartered in Minneapolis, reflects on its supported employment initiatives that have been a part of its culture here in the Twin Cities dating as far back as the late 1980’s.
Supported employment provides opportunities to individuals who may not be able to work independently the chance to work in the community by putting support systems in place to provide a successful work experience. In 1988, Minnesota was one of seven states selected to participate in a White House forum titled “The Corporate Community Supported Employment Initiative.” Medtronic enthusiastically became one of the ten corporate representatives from Minnesota. This forum was an opportunity for local businesses to share experiences of how their companies had benefited from a supported employment partnership with local vocational rehabilitation agencies. At that time, Medtronic formed a partnership with Rise, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
Supported employment continues to have a positive impact in many companies today including Medtronic because it still makes good business sense. Medtronic understands that the number of potential employees from this population remains largely untapped. Medtronic continues to build relationships with organizations like Rise Inc., which has provided co-worker training sessions, including general disability awareness training and etiquette, and also provides on site job coaches for supported employees at Medtronic Twin Cities locations. The relationship between Rise Inc. and Medtronic is not only mutually beneficial to the organizations, but it also benefits the community of people with disabilities. Employees hired at Medtronic through Rise have become long-term, valued and productive employees.
Medtronic’s catering vendor, Bon Appetit, a subsidiary of Compass NAD, has developed an excellent partnership with Opportunity Partners. Opportunity Partners is a non-profit organization that plays a vital role in the lives of adults with disabilities and other significant barriers by facilitating employment, residential care and personal enrichment opportunities. Opportunity Partners facilitated supported employment for twenty individuals in many Medtronic locations through out the Twin Cities Leslie Simmonds, Bon Appetit General Manager for Medtronic’s Twin Cities locations said “It’s about social responsibility and expanding our diversity goals as a company; it’s about walking the talk.” Simmonds saw this as a great opportunity to expand relationships within the Medtronic and the Minnesota community by providing successful employment situations in Medtronic food service operations.
Opportunity Partners staff met on site to gain an understanding of Bon Appetit’s business needs and then provided both job coaches and skilled employees to fill very critical positions for Bon Appetit. Simmonds commented, “You can always count on these individuals to be here and get the job done. We want Opportunity Partners to be here and they want to be here. It’s a win –win for everyone involved.”
Tom Butler, District Manager for the Midwest Region of Bon Appetit, said, “There is a business case for diversity and our company philosophy is one that is encompassing of all.” Simmonds noted that he could not be happier with the success of this partnership and that it is one of the best decisions they made for the Midwest Region.
Everyone benefits by reaching out to the untapped labor pool of individuals with disabilities. Bon Appetit has opened food service operations at Medtronic Sofamor Danek, located in Memphis. They are looking forward to building similar partnerships in Tennessee.
Medtronic, Inc., headquartered in Minneapolis, is the leading medical technology company, providing lifelong solutions for people with chronic disease. Medtronic’s Internet address is www.medtronic.com.