~~“Employment First” will be the policy of all commonwealth executive branch agencies under the jurisdiction of the governor in serving persons with disabilities. This policy reflects Governor Wolf’s goal of making the commonwealth a model state in supporting people with disabilities in the workplace. Employment First requires that competitive, integrated employment is the first consideration and preferred outcome of publicly-funded services for all working-age Pennsylvanians with a disability. Career, training, and support services will be used, as necessary, to support the placement of individuals with disabilities into competitive, integrated employment. (Page 29) Title I
The Secretaries of PDE, DHS and L&I, along with other commonwealth agencies and executive office officials, created a written plan that implements Employment First as the policy of all commonwealth executive branch agencies; aligns funding, policy, and practice toward an emphasis on competitive, integrated employment; prioritizes competitive, integrated employment as the first consideration and preferred outcome of all publicly-funded services for all Pennsylvanians with a disability; and creates the conditions that lead to a material increase in the number of Pennsylvanians with a disability who are employed in a competitive, integrated job. (Page 44) Title I
OVR is represented on the PA Developmental Disabilities Council, the Governor’s Special Education Advisory Panel and the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Project, all of which are comprised of representatives from partnering agencies. (Page 156) Title IV
As a key member of the PA Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Project currently sponsored by a grant administered by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, OVR will partner with agencies within the Department of Human Services to ensure that the employment needs of individuals with disabilities are met, that cost services are comprehensive, effective, innovative and not duplicative, and that every individual with a disability who wants to work to achieve self—support will be given the opportunity to do so. The Departments of Labor & Industry, Education, Human Services, Transportation and Health, under the leadership of OVR, will execute and commit to coordinating the interagency agreement and collaboration required to secure and maintain community integrated employment for youth and adults with disabilities.
Elements of the inter—departmental and interagency agreement shall fully address:
- interdepartmental eligibility and enrollment processes;
- data collection, sharing and reporting;
- service coordination, resource leveraging and braiding of funding; and
- quality assurance and improvement resulting in the collective accountability and performance measurement needed to substantially increase the numbers of Pennsylvanians in competitive integrated employment. (Page 176-177) Title I
Beginning in 2016, OVR led interagency training efforts through Experience the Employment Connection (EEC): Possibilities in Action. Continuing in 2017, EEC is a joint training initiative between the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), the Office Developmental Programs (ODP), the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (OMHSAS), and the Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education. Driven by the Governor's Executive Order on Employment First, EEC’s goal is to increase competitive, integrated employment for Pennsylvanians with disabilities by connecting professionals across systems. Participants learn about staff roles, policies, procedures, funding requirements, emerging practices. (Page 188) Title I
3. Investigate and evaluate effective strategies and protocols for building more effective partnerships with other non-VR organizations* to improve cross-agency collaboration and service delivery by:
a. Researching best practices, strategies and protocols of other states’ VR programs and relevant national organizations to support the agency’s development and modifications of Memorandum of Understanding;
b. Examining and evaluating current cross-agency collaboration and service delivery of OVR and other Pennsylvania non-VR organizations, particularly as it reinforces building effective partnerships of support of the Governor’s Employment First Initiative;
c. Examining and evaluating OVR’s current informational materials, website and social media protocol and make recommendations to enhance the agency’s informational campaign to all OVR’s customers. * PA Department of Education (PDE), Office of Developmental Programs (ODP), Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), community rehabilitation programs (CRP), etc. (Page 192) Title I
Executive Order 2016-03, Establishing “Employment First” Policy and Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability, signed into order on March 10, 2016 by Governor Tom Wolf has created policies and procedures for Pennsylvania to become an “Employment First’ commonwealth as a model state with a climate and culture of competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. The executive order outlines the following major policy changes:
1. “Employment First” is the policy of all Commonwealth executive branch agencies under the jurisdiction of the Governor. This policy reflects the Commonwealth’s goal of making the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania a model state when it comes to creating a climate hospitable to workers with a disability.
a. The definition of Employment First is that competitive integrated employment is the first consideration and preferred outcome of publicly-funded education, training, employment and related services, and long-term supports and services for working-age Pennsylvanians with a disability, as “disability” is defined in each agency’s governing statutes and rules.
b. The definition of competitive integrated employment for purposes of this Executive Order is the definition contained in the WIOA, which is work performed on a full or part-time basis (including self-employment) for which a person is:
(1) Compensated at not less than federal minimum wage requirements or State or local minimum wage law (whichever is higher) and not less than the customary rate paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by people without a disability;
(2) At a location where the employee interacts with people without a disability (not including supervisory personnel or people who are providing services to such employee); and
(3) Presented, as appropriate, opportunities for similar benefits and advancement like those for other employees without a disability and who have similar positions. (Page 199-200) Title IV
3. The Secretaries of the Departments of Education, Human Services and Labor and Industry, working with other Commonwealth agencies or executive office officials as appropriate, will develop a written plan to address the implementation of the following goals:
a. Implement Employment First as the policy of all Commonwealth executive branch agencies; (Page 200) Title I
With a successful first year as a foundation, Experience the Employment Connection (EEC): Possibilities in Action is returning for a second year! EEC is a joint training initiative between OVR, the Office Developmental Programs (ODP), the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (OMHSAS), and the Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education (BSE). This year the EEC Steering Committee have put together a program that is bigger, better and even more engaging. 15 full-day regional training sessions are planned for Fall 2017 with dates and locations determined by Suasion, an external conference planner and facilitator determined by bid award for this initiative. Focus topic being considered is around the Governor’s Employment First Legislation. (Page 216) Title I
5) Maintain and strengthen specific working relationships between Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Education (PDE) and OVR on transition—related issues, including reviewing and updating transition policies.
OVR continued to collaborate with its partners in DHS and PDE on a number of interagency initiatives. OVR continued to be represented on the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council and the Pennsylvania Special Education Advisory Panel. OVR continued to co—lead the PA Community of Practice on Transition with the Bureau of Special Education on which representatives from all MOU partners serve. OVR also worked with partners in the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Project in order to promote employment for youth with disabilities across all public agencies. (Page 221-222) Title I