What is the Pathways to Employment program?
It’s a personalized substance abuse treatment program we launched in February 2018. If the applicant agrees to successfully complete the program, he or she is guaranteed a job at Belden’s manufacturing facility in Richmond, Ind. We also offer the program to existing employees who request help. They must commit to a substance-free lifestyle and agree to random drug tests. Our local health care program partners, Centerstone Indiana and Meridian Health Services, assess low-risk and high-risk individuals in terms of their ability to deal with their substance abuse problem and provide personalized treatment to the participant and guidance to Belden.
How has the opioid crisis affected your business and your industry more broadly?
A lot of small Midwestern towns are dealing with the opioid crisis. At Belden, we created this program because we noticed that more people were failing their initial drug screenings. We gathered the board and managers at the Richmond, Ind., facility and tried to do something to make a difference. Experts say personal economics and drug abuse go together, and it is difficult to break the cycle of unemployment and substance abuse. One of the best things we can do is offer the applicants hope and focus through employment.
What was your approach to creating the program?
Since no program like this existed in the industry, we learned and adapted as we progressed. Following treatment, the participants enter safety-sensitive roles for a period of time and are randomly screened for drugs, which is important in our safety-conscious environment. Some companies stopped drug testing because they get more applicants that way and they feel it’s not their problem. We felt we couldn’t do that.
What does creating this program mean to you?
As a business leader, you can convince yourself that things are not your responsibility. I’m proud of the fact that we decided to make a difference in the community where we operate. I have seen the unintended consequences of globalization. I recognize that it has had a negative effect on the middle of the U.S., where manufacturing has always been a big part of the economy. Jobs were moved out. So I see this as an opportunity for a global company that benefited from globalization to mend those issues within the community.
How did your experiences at Northwestern shape your career?
I was a mechanical engineering student, but there was a strong emphasis on the humanities. That really helped me become a more well-rounded person and allowed me to be more comfortable with ambiguity, to try to search for the things that feel right for me. If my curriculum hadn’t included the humanities, I wonder if I would have approached the substance abuse issue the way I did. My Northwestern education shaped who I am.
Interview conducted by Daniel Rosenzweig-Ziff, a sophomore journalism and international studies major from Newton Centre, Mass.