Hershey's H.E.R.O.S Program
In Summer 2013, The Hershey Company manufacturing plant in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, announced an initiative, sponsored through a Hershey corporate initiative, to offer apprenticeships for approximately six individuals with disabilities. The announcement of this corporate initiative, titled "Hershey Extends Real Opportunities to Succeed" (H.E.R.O.S.), led to the beginning of a highly successful strategic partnership with the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services (DARS) through its local Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) Office and the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center (WWRC). The DARS partnership with the Hershey apprenticeship program offered individuals with disabilities a six-month work experience on the production line. During the apprenticeship, DARS clients could access any needed supports from Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center (WWRC), a division of DARS located in nearby Fishersville, Virginia, to help them complete the program as long as they were able to perform the required duties at the end of the six months.
Unique features of this partnership included:
The Hershey Company plant in Stuart's Draft, Virginia, was honored for its H.E.R.O.S Program during the 2014 DARS Champions event conducted during October as part of National Disability Awareness Month. In January, 2015, the new Stuart's Draft Hershey Plant Manager toured WWRC with CEOs from other local and regional companies who have heard of the success of the H.E.R.O.S Program, to continue and expand this type of partnership that dually benefits the employer and qualified job seekers with disabilities.
The Virginia Board for Workforce Development, the governor's key advisory body on workforce hosted its April, 2016 meeting at WWRC and toured the Center as well as received a panel presentation by Hershey and former WWRC clients now employed by Hershey. Key staff involved from the Governor's Office promoting WIOA are enthused about inclusive training and employment practices for individuals with disabilities as they seek to meet credentialing objectives set by the Governor and workforce creation goals outlined in EO23. Click HERE for HERSHEY presentation to the Virginia Board of Workforce Development tiltled "Recognizing the Value of Inclusion".