Creating Opportunities for People With Disabilities to Thrive

Oct 30, 2023 5:45 PM ET
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute students pose for a picture in a conference room

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and members of Aramark’s employee resource group (ERG) Thrive went above and beyond to advance the acceptance, equity, allyship, and inclusion of people with disabilities while providing important employment and career opportunities.

People with disabilities remain one of the most unemployed and underemployed groups in the United States.

“I’m so proud of the great things Thrive continues to do,” said Marc Bruno, Chief Operating Officer, Aramark U.S. Food and Facilities and Executive Sponsor of Thrive. “In the past year, we increased membership in our ERG by 18 percent, opened our first international Hub in Chile, and, for the seventh consecutive year, Aramark earned a score of 100 on the Disability Equality Index.”

In addition to the other awards and NDEAM events below, Aramark employees participated again this year in the Eagles Autism Challenge, as well as the Polar Pop/Polar Plunge challenge to raise awareness and funds to benefit the Special Olympics.

Outside the U.S., Aramark Chile partnered with Incluyeme and the Inter-American Development Bank’s BID Lab to introduce the Aramark Labor Inclusion Lab, a trailblazing initiative working to boost employment opportunities and inclusion for those with disabilities.

Event Highlights

Best Practices Training

Members of Thrive organized a training presentation with help from the Job Accommodation Network to learn technical assistance on how to increase comfort, confidence, and competence through disability awareness.

Topics included effective communications best practices for managing people with different abilities.

A.J. Drexel Autism Institute Student Mentorship

For the second year, about 50 students from Transition Pathways at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute visited Aramark’s Philadelphia headquarters October 17th to learn more about the company’s career path opportunities and get to know Aramark leaders and lines of business. (Photos at top and right).

This continuing relationship with the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, and with Community Integrated Services, has helped Aramark better reach and engage with Philadelphia’s neurodiverse community.

In two hiring events the Philadelphia region this year, 300 candidates from these outreach programs interviewed for jobs at Aramark-managed client locations in the area.

So far, more than 90 candidates have been hired and more are in the process of being hired throughout the Philadelphia region. Watch a Transition Pathways video from an Aramark hiring event in June 2023.

Culinary Training Session in Maine

Victor Hartley, Aramark Food Service Director at Northern Maine Community College (NMCC), hosted an immersive culinary experience for participants of the Central Aroostook Association (CAA), which serves people with varying developmental disabilities.

Participants learned basic techniques for independent cooking, including the importance of food safety and sanitation, how to set up and clean a cooking prep station, and how to shop for seasonal food items.

The interactive session, held at the NMCC test kitchen on campus in August, caught the attention of a local TV news crew. Watch the coverage on YouTube.

Popcorn for the People Sampling

Thrive partnered again this year with Popcorn for the People, an Aramark supplier that works to create career opportunities for the disabled community—one delicious kernel at a time.

Thrive staffed a table at the Aramark headquarters October 24th so employees and guests could learn more about Popcorn for the People and sample and purchase their products.

Notable Awards and Recognition

  • In February, Aramark was named a Top 50 Employer for People with Disabilities by CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine.
  • Aramark was recognized as one of five businesses in the Chicago metropolitan area that goes above and beyond for clients of Parents Alliance Employment Project (PAEP), an employment agency that assists individuals with disabilities to help obtain and retain competitive employment in the community. PAEP presented the award at the October 18th Be Inspired to Hire event in Oakbrook, Illinois.
  • In the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area, Aramark received a 2023 HireAbility award from Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas based on the company’s longtime partnership with Bridges DFW. Aramark was also the recipient of the Bridges DFW Employer of the Year award in 2018.
  • The Aramark Collegiate Hospitality team at St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York received an award for contributions in furthering employment opportunities for people with disabilities, thanks to its partnership with the Rockland Employment Network, a program of the Workforce Development Board of Rockland County. An employee who went through the program nominated Aramark for the award, which was presented October 20th at the annual Rockland County National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebration.
  • For actively partnering with North Carolina organizations to bring employment opportunities to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), Carolina Dining Services at UNC-Chapel Hill (Aramark Collegiate Hospitality) was certified as a gold level IDD Inclusive Employer by Work Together NC. Recently, the Carolina Dining Services team held cooking classes and served residents and staff of Peacehaven Community Farm, which connects people with IDD to the larger community through shared living and sustainable farming. Aramark Chef Alex Reames created a menu that included produce grown directly on the farm, including okra, collard greens, and Swiss chard.
  • Jennifer Scott, Aramark Human Resources Director, was recognized with an Appreciation Award from Transition Pathways/Project Search for building connections to transition young people with disabilities to employment. Scott was part of a panel session at the 2023 National Community Schools Conference.