On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, Linda Mills, Northrop Grumman Corporation Vice President of Operations, gave the keynote address at the MVLE Annual Meeting and Dinner in Springfield, Virginia. Below are her remarks.

 

Benefits of a Workforce by People with Disabilities

I’m delighted to be here to represent Northrop Grumman and to be part of your annual meeting. What a fantastic event celebrating MVLE’s accomplishments and your significant achievements.

There are two topics I’ll address – the great value that disabled employees bring to Northrop Grumman and our wonderful and productive MVLE relationship. Our two organizations share a common mission because MVLE helps us access the tremendous talent pool of individuals with disabilities.

First, for those of you that may not know Northrop Grumman, here's a short video clip:

I never cease to be amazed at what we do, as a global security company, to protect our nation and our allies.

Developing and maintaining those complex systems requires a skilled and dedicated workforce. There is a shortage of those talented workers and as more reach retirement age, it will get worse.

How should we react to this trend?

Every available source of talent must be found, nurtured and developed – such as people with disabilities, one of the most capable and underutilized components of our workforce.

According to the Department of Labor, the current U.S. unemployment rate for people with disabilities is about 14 percent, compared to 7 percent to those without. That’s an opportunity!

We understand the tremendous contribution made by a diverse workforce. We’re committed to it. It makes us a better and more productive company. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion have been shown to perform better and are more innovative. And that diversity and inclusion has to include people with disabilities.

What are the benefits that people with disabilities provide to the workforce?

The short answer is that ‘it makes good business sense’:

  • From Industry reports, and our own experience, workers with disabilities are consistently viewed as strong contributors thanks to the quality and quantity of work, flexibility to demands, and their attendance and safety record.
  • 87 percent of the public say they would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities.

Beyond the statistics - we’re fortunate to have many examples of people with disabilities who make significant contributions to our business.

One is Bill Carty, a Vice President and General Manager, in our Technical Services sector, who is here tonight and accompanied by his wife Colleen. Bill has spent the majority of his career at Northrop Grumman and is an outstanding example of the significant roles visually impaired employees serve at the company.

Another is Bob Vetere. Bob has more than 30 years of service and he has played a pioneering role in supporting employees with disabilities as an advocate, a mentor, and as a recruiter.

Bob helped create a Northrop Grumman employee resource group called the VOICE – which stands for Victory Over Impairment and Challenge Enterprise. VOICE is a catalyst for cultural change uncovering workplace challenges for disabled employees and recommending practical solutions. The group advocates for disabled employees helping us to hire, develop and retain them.

Thanks to the efforts of Northrop Grumman employees, the members of Voice – and also Gloria Pualani and Tizoc Loza who are strong supporters of MVLE, we’ve made great progress developing our disabled workforce.

Another important initiative for our disabled employees is Operation IMPACT – which stands for Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition. It finds opportunities for wounded veterans to gain meaningful post-military employment and provides accommodations and training to help them succeed. We’ve placed more than 130 severely injured warriors and primary wage earners through Operation IMPACT. MVLE is involved with Operation IMPACT and we greatly appreciate your participation. Thank you.

We‘ve other efforts underway to attract and retain disabled employees:

  • We launched accessibility and accommodations initiatives, not just to improve physical building facilities, but also for our electronic information, web sites and technology.
  • We developed a disability on-line inclusion toolkit in partnership with Cornell University.
  • We’re also working to establish a centralized resource – one-stop-shopping – where employees with disabilities can go for whatever they need: ergonomic office furniture and technologies; parking passes, anything.

But of course, the most important is recruiting, developing and retaining more employees with disabilities. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve partnered with MVLE and developed such a strong relationship.

Over six years ago, Larry Peters, a Northrop Grumman employee, was at MVLE attending an annual review for his son Brian when a chance hallway discussion with April led to Northrop Grumman’s donation of surplus computer equipment. With April’s persistence, follow-on meetings led to MVLE becoming a business partner providing mail room support.

Eventually, MVLE, as a protégé company of Northrop Grumman, became the first non-profit organization to be accepted into the Department of Defense Mentor Protégée program. I’m proud to announce that Northrop Grumman received two Nunn Perry Awards from the Department of Defense for our mentor protégé program. And one of the awards we received was for our mentor protégé program with MVLE. That’s fantastic recognition. So congratulations to MVLE!

Under the program MVLE’s government contract capability and revenue have grown, along with expanded employment options for individuals with disabilities and wounded warriors. This is a great win-win. Today, we do about one million dollars of business with MVLE.

Together we’re exploring ways to increase opportunities for wounded warriors and returning veterans, AbilityOne providers, and people with significant disabilities.

So, as you can see, this is a wonderful, mutually beneficial relationship. And by the way, Larry Peters’ son, Brian, who was the impetus for our association, is still with MVLE and doing well.

I’d like to ask Brian and Larry to stand. Thank you both for helping create our great Northrop Grumman and MVLE partnership.

In closing, October is National Disability Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is: “Because we are equal to the task.” Given the opportunity that organizations like MVLE provide – and a commitment from corporate America, people with disabilities have proven, “to be more than equal to the task.”

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Photo Caption: Linda Mills, Northrop Grumman vice president of operations (above right), receives an appreciation award from April Pinch-Keeler, MVLE president and CEO. Mills was the keynote speaker at the MVLE Inc. 2013 annual meeting and dinner celebration on October 22, 2013. The event recognizes individuals inside and outside the organization who have helped MVLE in its mission to assist people with disabilities. Northrop Grumman and MVLE received a 2013 DoD Nunn-Perry Award for their partnership in the DoD Mentor Protégé Program.