Partnership creates new opportunities for diverse workforce

An organization that has worked with businesses for more than 30 years to support people with disabilities will be providing staffing for a national conference this spring, thanks to its partnership with Best Buy.

The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC), which promotes sustainable purchasing best practices for organizations, will employ clients from Lifeworks Services to staff its May summit in Minneapolis.

Lifeworks got connected with SPLC through Best Buy, which it has worked with since 2003.

“We support job seekers of all abilities to be directly hired in the community,” says Ashley Oolman, Lifeworks business development consultant. “We believe that anyone who wants to work can work.

It’s a matter of finding the right mix of support.”

People supported by Lifeworks have worked at Best Buy for more than a decade doing clerical work. Since 2016, Best Buy was also part of a new Lifeworks initiative where job seekers work on building skills and exploring career opportunities in the community.

When SPLC approached Best Buy about ways to collaborate on its summit, Best Buy’s senior director of procurement and sustainability wanted to do something with a direct impact, and Lifeworks was a perfect fit.

“Everything just came together,” says Tim Meester. “We agreed to cover the cost of staffing the event, as long as they did it through Lifeworks.”

Everyone loved the plan.

“The high unemployment rate faced by people with disabilities is not healthy for the economy or communities,” says Sam Hummel, SPLC’s president and CEO. “So we were excited to learn that Best Buy has a local partner who could help us make our event staffing an employment opportunity for people with disabilities, because that allows our event to contribute toward the health and resiliency of our host community.”

Emphasizing inclusivity

Lifeworks tries to match job opportunities with people’s career interests, so the people working at the conference will have an interest in careers related to things like event management or customer service.

But before that, Lifeworks will hold a training session for people who will be working with their clients — emphasizing how to be inclusive of all people at work.

“For instance, a co-worker might not have worked with someone who is non-verbal, or who has a developmental disability,” says Oolman. “A lot of time, people need the support of their co-workers. They don’t necessarily need an advocate, but rather an environment where they can advocate for themselves.”

“This will be a learning opportunity brought to us by virtue of hosting our event in the Minneapolis area, where companies like Best Buy are working on this issue with strong community partners like Lifeworks,” says Hummel. “We hope that the experience will inspire our members to make many more hiring opportunities available to people with disabilities, both within their own organizations and within their suppliers’ organizations.”