DWD Secretary Reggie Newson visits Janesville

A program that started in Texas to train and place employees with disabilities has worked it's way into Rock County.

Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson Thursday congratulated the latest graduates of an on-the-job training program for people with disabilities, a state partnership with Walgreens that puts individuals on a path to employment and independence.

Since May 2012, the DWD Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) has partnered with Walgreens in the national drugstore chain's Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative (REDI). The success of the early pilot in Milwaukee led the state and Walgreens to expand the program at Walgreens stores across the state. Today, REDI participants are receiving retail sales training in stores throughout Wisconsin. Today's graduation in Janesville, with graduates from stores in both Janesville and Beloit, is the latest example of the successful initiative.

In 2010, Walgreens launched REDI as a pilot in Texas and soon expanded it to more than 150 stores throughout Texas, New York and Connecticut. To date, more than 200 individuals across the country have successfully completed four weeks of training as service clerks, and 66 percent have been recommended for hire.

The five REDI graduates honored in Janesville Thursday bring the statewide total of successful REDI participants to 102. Of the REDI graduates thus far, 68 are employed by Walgreens. Of the remaining graduates, 10 are working for other employers.

Walgreens has more than 220 stores in Wisconsin, and the expansion of the REDI program to select locations throughout the state will continue to occur gradually. There are currently 22 REDI sites in Wisconsin, in stores in in Beloit, Janesville, Racine, Milwaukee, Franklin, Wauwatosa, Oconomowoc, Waukesha, West Bend, Oshkosh, Kaukauna, Appleton, Green Bay, Manitowoc and Eau Claire.