For Human Resources recruiters, being part of the community means hiring qualified candidates of all abilities.

“We’re passionate about expanding our workforce to be more diverse,” said Marji Morris, Manager of Talent Acquisition and Workforce Planning. “It is important for an organization like ours to reach out in the employment realm and provide opportunities for qualified candidates, regardless of their disability status. We need to make sure we’re inclusive.”

For about a decade, the team has put an emphasis on hiring candidates with disabilities. As a result, TEP has been recognized nationally and locally as an employer with success in this area.

In August, Morris and Jeremy Kelly, Manager of Enterprise Cyber Security, were the only energy industry representatives to speak at a national, virtual webinar, called “Hiring from the Neurodiverse Community,” hosted by the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD). Morris and Kelly discussed the success of hiring and retaining an employee on the autism spectrum.

Morris explained that “neurodiverse” is a term that is being used more commonly to define those with brain differences, including autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. TEP has one employee, for example, who sustained a brain injury while serving in the military.

“This is an amazing talent pool of people, who are sometimes overlooked based on their social cues and behavior,” Morris said. “We focus on their abilities, not their disabilities.”

Previously, in 2016, Morris and a former employee spoke about disability inclusion in the workforce at a CEWD annual summit.

Locally, TEP was named Employer of the Year by Linkages, an organization that connected employers to job candidates. TEP also hosted an employment training session for Linkages in 2018, featuring Dawei F., a TEP Distribution Engineer who is blind. (Linkages has since become part of another organization, Direct Advocacy and Resource Center.)

Recruiters regularly attend job fairs for candidates with disabilities and partner with local organizations, said Mary Vaughan, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist. Those include the DREAM Disability & Rehabilitation Employment Awareness Job Fair each October and the Annual Autism/Sensory Friendly Job Fair, which is set up differently to make candidates more comfortable. Some of these efforts have been conducted remotely during the pandemic.

The work of our recruiters doesn’t stop with finding candidates.

They also make sure to accommodate candidates’ individual needs in the interview process and after they are hired. For example, they identified a need for wheelchair-accessible doors in the parking garage at our Downtown Headquarters; automatic doors have since been installed. Some candidates need assistance from a helper. Others might be more comfortable at the back of the room, in a firm seat or without hand-shaking or other physical contact.

Their efforts have broadened and deepened our employee talent pool.

“We’ve really had the distinct pleasure and honor to watch our hires really develop and grow as a result of working at our company, and that’s really amazing,” Morris said.  “It’s not just good for us, but it’s life changing for the person and their families. It’s very rewarding on both ends.”

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