Second Expect Employment Report Presented to Governor Haslam

Tuesday, October 06, 2015 | 12:49pm

NASHVILLE—In its second annual report to Gov. Bill Haslam, the Employment First Task Force highlighted a groundbreaking cooperative effort among state government agencies, defined key metrics for monitoring progress across a 3-year strategic plan, and outlined a public-private partnership to publicly track state and national data in several sectors.  

Employment First is the strategy adopted in Tennessee and other states that makes community-based integrated employment the first and preferred employment service option for youth and adults with significant disabilities.

“Making sure all Tennesseans have access to a good job is a top priority for our administration, and while Tennesseans living with disabilities already make significant contributions to our state’s workforce, we can do more,” Haslam said. “A successful Employment First initiative takes collaboration, efficient and effective government programs that are customer-focused and deliver meaningful services and strong public and private partnerships. We are grateful to the state agencies, families, consumer advocates and service providers that have dedicated themselves to serving our state and their fellow Tennesseans.” 

A cooperative effort among six state government agencies is encompassed in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) enacted in June.  The MOU focuses on removing barriers from the school-to-work transition for youth with disabilities.

Members of the Employment First Task Force also reported to the governor a three-year strategic plan to fulfill the vision he outlined in Executive Order No. 28 which created the task force in 2013.  Goal areas in the strategic plan are:

  • To align service systems and improve coordination to increase employment
  • To strengthen community commitment to Employment First principles
  • To increase the number of businesses that seek and hire people with disabilities
  • To grow Tennessee’s role as a model public sector employer for people with disabilities
  • To prepare students for employment and connect them to essential services

“On a daily basis, we see the impact that employment has on a person’s connection to their community,” Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) Commissioner Debra Payne said.  “The goals in this three-year strategic plan will allow everyone on the task force to see how far we’ve come and where we need to focus in the future.”

Collaboration with partners at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and TennesseeWorks will turn the goals of the strategic plan into metrics that will be displayed on a publicly visible “dashboard.”  Anyone will be able to track statistics in several areas including the number of businesses that employ people with disabilities, state government employment of people with disabilities, occupational diploma availability, and enrollment in postsecondary education, training, or competitive employment.

In its second year, the Employment First Task Force also worked with TennCare to amend the state’s Medicaid waivers to emphasize employment, and task force members from DIDD and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development were chosen by federal leaders to coach and mentor officials in other Employment First states.

One milestone the task force documented in fiscal year 2014-2015 was the commitment by community rehabilitation providers to shift services from the sheltered workshop model to supported employment under Employment First guidelines.  By the end of the fiscal year, 13 DIDD providers earned Employment First certification through their efforts to end segregated employment settings.

The task force, which is co-chaired by DIDD and the Department of Human Services, meets quarterly.  Representatives from the Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Labor and Workforce Development, and Education as well as TennCare, the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, and several disability advocacy groups are also members of the task force.

The 2015 Expect Employment report is available online at:{filedir_46}2015_Expect_Employment_Report-Final.pdf

View video from the report presentation at this link: