Employment First task report presented to Governor Haslam

By: Rachael Jenkins

On Oct. 6, Tennessee’s Employment First Task Force presented its second annual report to Governor Bill Haslam. The report summarizes the work of the Task Force over the past year and the group’s priorities moving forward in promoting employment as the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities, mental health diagnoses and substance abuse disorders receiving state services.

Governor Haslam established Tennessee as an Employment First state in June 2013 with Executive Order No. 28. This Order establishes the Employment First Task Force to support the commitment of state partnership agencies to increase integrated, competitive employment.

In the report, Governor Haslam wrote, “Making sure all Tennesseans have access to a good job is a top priority for our administration. Tennesseans living with disabilities already make significant contributions to our state’s workforce, but we can do more.” The Task Force includes representatives from state agencies, consumers and family members, advocates, service providers, employers, and other community members.

“We’re excited to see Tennessee’s commitment to employment of people with disabilities at the highest levels of Tennessee state government,” said Elise McMillan, co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). “We know that people with disabilities make excellent employees and are happy to work with so many partners within state government and from across the state to continue to increase employment.”

Since Aug. 1, 2013, the Task Force has been meeting quarterly in collaboration with the TennesseeWorks Partnership, an initiative facilitated by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center since 2012. With a shared vision to increase employment for all Tennesseans with disabilities, workgroups have focused on the areas of policy, providers, individuals with disabilities and families, and data. The Task Force has developed a three-year strategic plan to fulfill the vision Governor Haslam outlined in Executive Order No. 28, which created the task force in 2013. Goal areas in the strategic plan are:

  • Align service systems and improve coordination to increase employment
  • Strengthen community commitment to Employment First principles
  • Increase number of businesses that seek and hire people with disabilities
  • Grow Tennessee’s role as a model public sector employer for people with disabilities
  • Prepare students for employment and connect them to essential services

“The commitment to real jobs for real pay is clear. When it comes to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to connect to great jobs in their community, Tennessee is moving forward fast,” said TennesseeWorks co-director Erik Carter.

The TennesseeWorks Partnership and Employment First Task Force have already made numerous strides towards achieving the strategic goals. Highlighted accomplishments from the Employment First Task Force and TennesseeWorks partnership from the past year include:

  • Executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the state partner agencies committed to employment;
  • Project SEARCH increased to seven sites with 60 interns statewide;
  • Collaboration between TennCare and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) to share employment-focused technical assistance granted to DIDD;
  • Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Initiative served over 270 individuals: a total of 148 participants have been placed in employment receiving a competitive wage;
  • TennesseeWorks has taken the lead on designing a data dashboard, housed on the TennesseeWorks site, to share national and state data relevant to employment of people with disabilities;
  • TennesseeWorks has hosted the Think! Employment Summit three years in a row, bringing together students with disabilities, family members, employers, service providers, and partners in state government with the goal of sharing best practices and building community partnerships.

For more information on the TennesseeWorks partnership, visit http://www.tennesseeworks.org/about-us/.

For more information on the Employment First movement in Tennessee, visit https://www.tn.gov/didd/topic/employment-first.

Click here to download the Expect Employment report.

Click here to watch a video of presentation to Governor Haslam.

Last Updated: 10/13/2015 9:29:20 AM

Go to the news and video index