Tennessee Report Details Strides Made to Improve Employment for People with Disabilities

According to a recent report from the Tennessee Employment Task Force to the Governor, “an increased focus on preparing youth with disabilities to transition from school to employment is one of several successes outlined in the fourth-year report”.

Tennessee’s Transition School to Work program, a collaboration between the local school system and Department of Human Services—Vocational Rehabilitation, gives students opportunities to try out jobs at several local businesses and has led to gainful employment at  works sites for students.

 “Preparing all students, regardless of disability, to meet the demands of our workforce has been a top priority of mine in office,” Haslam said.  “The task force’s focus on removing barriers to employment and working across agencies to align services to support employment allows us to more effectively and efficiently serve Tennesseans with disabilities and employers while improving experiences in the workplace.”

“We know that students who have a job in high school are more likely to have employment success as adults,” Department of Human Services Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes said.  “What I like about this program is we are all working together to help these students prepare for life with meaningful employment opportunities.  We are grateful that these agencies are collaborating and sharing resources while local communities like Kingsport are joining with us to help build a thriving Tennessee.”

Created in 2013 through Executive Order No. 28, the Employment First Task Force is charged with eliminating barriers, streamlining services and increasing integrated and competitive employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, substance abuse disorders and other disabilities.

“For many people with disabilities, a job is so much more than just a paycheck, “Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) Commissioner Debra K. Payne said.  “A job becomes a part of a person’s identity, helps them develop a social network, meet new people, and acquire and enhance skills.  By bringing together the best that state agencies and our private partners offer, we are truly making a difference in the lives of thousands of Tennesseans who want to work.”

This year’s Expect Employment report focuses on the results of three years of collaboration among state agencies and partner groups.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Launching the Employment and Community First CHOICES program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities;
  • Increasing data collection efforts to better gauge the employment rate among people with disabilities receiving state supports;
  • Unveiling Transition Tennessee, an online hub for training and resources for educators to prepare students for life after high school;
  • Adding leaders from the Department of Economic and Community Development to the task force to bolster employer outreach efforts; and
  • Expanding several successful programs for people with disabilities and mental illness and substance use disorders, including the Project SEARCH, Transition School to Work Program, and the Individual Placement and Support Program.