JENNIE: Advance Auto Parts Different Abilities initiative to hire qualified workers who have disabilities


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Last December, Advance Auto Parts launched the Different Abilities hiring Program at its Distribution Center in Thompson, Georgia.

Through the program, Advance identifies, trains and hires motivated and qualified job seekers with disabilities. And that’s pretty significant because according to The US Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate for people with disabilities is about twice that of people without disabilities.

Sharise Fennell is the Human Resources Manager for the Advance Auto Parts Distribution Center in Thomson and the southeast.

Jennie: “And Sharise, Advance Auto plans to roll out the program in other distribution centers and stores and eventually hire like 5,000 people with disabilities.”

Sharise: “An inclusive environment, which really speaks to just that. As long people are eager, happy and excited about wanting to come to work and willing to learn, we have a home for them here. And so one of the big things is that we’ve launched it as, we want to work out the details here. And we have about 11 facilities actually that’s up and rolling now. And we’re gonna, plans to launch it across the whole entire system nationally to include some stores. But we want to make sure that we have the training. As any employee, training is essential to making sure that they stay but especially with the persons with disabilities, we want to make sure that we get it right. So a part of that is on the job training just as we do with any hire that we have, but on the job training making sure that we have not only just educated our leaders but also educated our team members here. ‘Cause everybody knows, persons with disabilities it could be me. it could be you, it could be a family member or whatever have you. But really we’re just looking for solid people that have a great attitude and are willing to learn and make sure they have the tools to be successful, just like we do with any other employee. And we welcome them here, like I said before.”

Jennie: “Now, do you all work closely with Easterseals of East Georgia?”

Sharise: “Absolutely! They are definitely a great partner to have. They’ve been a part from day one of helping us launch this program as there’s things that we need to learn as well to make sure that we have the appropriate tools for them to be successful. They’ve been an advocate and definitely a great partner along with the State of Georgia is helping us launch this throughout. Not just this facility, but throughout all of our facilities that we have alive, persons with disability program going on now.”

Jennie: “So how many people do you have in your Thompson Center?”

Sharise: “We just started this program in late November, early December, and we’ve already hit our 11th person then hired one with us here. And I can tell you they’re doing a phenomenal job not even just within the tasks that they’re completing but the training and giving us feedback as well as just their overall attitude, it just speaks volumes to the success of the program.”

Jennie: “How do you think it is for other workers when you begin to, you talk about inclusivity, and when you bring in people with with special challenges and special abilities. How is it for the workforce as a whole?”

Sharise: “Well, I can tell you the work force within our Thompson Facility and not just the Thompson, all of our facilities have been very excited about this program. Because you know, PWD is more so self-disclosed but how many of us that have disabilities, and basically what it is is accommodations, right? Making sure that we can accommodate and give you the tools to be successful. So, with our team here, it’s just like any other employee. They’re excited about somebody that’s willing and wanting to work and then also open doors for just personal friends, family members and things of that nature, of team members that sometimes are or untapped market, right? So it really gives them an excitement that we are welcoming persons with disability. And it’s really been able to not only just grow our team but also give those that actually work for us hope that you know, their loved ones or them themselves or It kind of take away that stigma, right? That just because you have disability, you can’t. You definitely can, and we wrap our arms around them. One of the things that stands out about this Thompson Facility, is we are very family oriented, which just kind of speaks to our cultural beliefs as well as builds in that overall feel that we’re going to take care of our team. So whatever that may be, we can overcome any hurdle that comes in front of us.”

Jennie: “How can people, if someone’s watching right now and they’re like, oh my gosh, I have a brother or I have a cousin, how can they find out more about it, the program?”

Sharise: “If they are working an agency, they can definitely connect in with their agency and go to to apply, and work with their agency. One of the things that we want to make sure that they get kind of like first priority to interviews now is the same interview pathways as any other team member that comes through the program. But we want to make sure that we’re giving those team members or those candidates an opportunity and first steps to a chance to work at Advance. So we ask that they partner with the agency that they’re working with. But they can just simply go to to apply and we’ll start that process and walk them right through it.”

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