Laptops for recycling or reuse

Participants in the 10- to 12-week course will receive training to meet NAID certifications. | Tham KC/Shutterstock

ERI and nonprofit Opportunity Enterprises have teamed up to provide e-scrap recycling training for people with disabilities in Indiana.

ERI, an electronics recycling and reuse company, will run 10- to 12-week training courses at its Plainfield, Ind. facility, in collaboration with Opportunity Enterprises (OE), which specializes in inclusivity training for employers and vocational training for employees of all abilities. OE also runs SecureShred, an Indiana-based company staffed by adults with disabilities who shred documents and recycle electronics. 

Participants in the course will be training to NAID certification standards and have the option of continuing to work for ERI. 

Carol DeBellis, senior vice president of human resources at ERI, told E-Scrap News that the candidates are by no means locked into employment with ERI, because the training will allow them to work for any electronics recycler, but “the hope is we get to keep them.” 

“ERI is excited about the project,” she added. “We’ve talked about other programs in the past and worked with second chance individuals, but when this one came up it just seemed like such a natural fit.” 

Neil Samahon, OE’s president and CEO, said in a press release that “employees of all abilities bring a unique set of skills and talents to their role.”

“It’s all about finding the right fit for each person’s strengths and creating an environment that values inclusivity,” he said, noting that studies have shown companies that hire people of varied abilities outperform their peers and report increased productivity, higher profit margins and higher net income. 

“Hiring someone with a disability is not a philanthropic effort, but truly a way to enhance your workforce performance,” he added. “We applaud ERI for their innovative approach to expand their workforce.”

The partnership was formed at an Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) meeting, DeBellis said. The two companies toured each other’s facilities and started talking seriously about starting a collaboration. 

“There’s almost no reason not to try it when we realized how much support we would get from the state of Indiana,” DeBellis said. 

DeBellis said the state will pay OE for the training, inclusivity training and also for job coaching support for up to two years from the date of hire. Most of the time that additional coaching isn’t needed, DeBellis added, but “if we have someone struggling or if we need additional support for that first class, they will help.” 

DeBellis said the processes at OE’s facility and ERI’s facility are very similar, with the main difference being the scale of operations and the level of automation at ERI. 

“The processes, the thoughts behind it, the decision points were similar,” she said. The other difference was the addition of an “unsortable” pile for items at OE that came across the line that do not fit in existing categories. 

At ERI, a training classroom will be completed in the next 30 days, and the company is almost finished with an Americans with Disabilities Act review of its job descriptions and handbook. 

“We’re pretty close to being compliant so we’re going through swaps now to make sure we don’t have any decision points that are vague or might be confusing,” DeBellis said.

The company is recruiting between 10 and 12 local candidates to make up the first class, which DeBellis said should start in late April or early May. 

OE is also in the process of running inclusivity training at ERI. DeBellis said so far, the lead supervisors and managers have undergone the training and had questions answered about workforce integration. Trainees will be held to the same productivity standards, DeBellis said, as their program will leave them well prepared. 

Employees in the asset management area will also receive inclusivity training, DeBellis said, because that’s where the first class of OE-trained workers will be placed. Inclusivity training is “the only way to make it successful,” she added. 

ERI is interested in expanding the program to other locations, DeBellis said, with Arizona, Texas and California in mind as possibilities.  

“We chose Indiana because it was right there in our laps, but we would love to do it in others,” she said.

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