Business
6:55 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Winston-Salem Company Is One of the Best Places to Work For Those Over 50

A Winston-Salem company is getting some national recognition. The Industries for the Blind received an award Wednesday for being one of the best employers for workers over the age of 50.

Each year, AARP and the Society for Human Resources Management accepts applications from companies across the country to help rank the best employers for workers over the age of 50.

Industries for the Blind, based in Winston-Salem made the 2013 list.

Doug Dickerson, state director for AARP North Carolina, says some of the company’s winning strategies include, holding annual health fairs for employees, providing transportation to and from work and hosting special training and support programs.

“Older adults also need flexible schedules. Often times, they have to take care of a family member that has dementia or some sort of disability. Transportation for older adults is also important, because sometimes they may have some issues getting to work. Industries for the Blind has transportation as far away as Greensboro,” says Dickerson.

Art Saunders of Greensboro, 57, lost his eyesight to glaucoma several years ago. He’s been working at the company’s manufacturing plant for the past eight years.

“One of the things that I enjoy here is the cafeteria, the food service. It just doesn’t stop. It’s the simple things like recognizing employees for their contributions. We have an employee of the month and they are even given a monetary award,” says Saunders.

Industries for the Blind Winston-Salem employs more than 600 people throughout the country, and also has a manufacturing plant in Asheville, N.C.  The company makes a variety of products for the U.S. government including helmet pads, parachutes and office supplies.

“We make 800 pairs of prescription eyeglasses every day and more than 80 percent of the direct labor is performed by employees who are either blind or visually impaired. By providing very modest physical and social accommodations, we’ve tapped the power of this community that’s ignored by so many people,” says Will Spivy, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Business Affairs for the company.

David Horton, executive director of the Winston-Salem facility, says the company has also  invested in advanced technology for workers to use in the manufacturing process.

“We want to make sure we are meeting the employee’s needs as we make quality products. Our employees are part of the IFB family,” says Horton.

Lynn Shields, 59, started working for IFB in 2007. She has suffered from a visual impairment since she was a young child. Shields is a technician at the community low vision center, where she provides adaptive equipment and aids for people with severe vision loss.

“I just absolutely live my job. I look forward to coming to work every day. I often have people who come in who are print impaired because of vision loss and I get them reading again. I’ve laughed with people, I’ve cried with people, but I just know when I come to work, hopefully I will make a difference in one person’s life,” says Shields.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina also made the 2013 list of best employers for workers over 50. The National Institutes of Health gained the top honor in this year’s search.