Kentucky Alignment of Employment Initiatives

Kentucky Alignment of Employment Initiatives Matrix

The Kentucky Work Matters task force was created in 2017 by Executive Order and included representatives from every area of Kentucky’s state government related to workforce development along with representatives from the private sector. It has addressed barriers to employment and promoted workforce inclusion for people with disabilities, foster children, disabled veterans, individuals with substance use issues, and individuals with criminal records. The Work Matters Final Report was delivered in May 2018 and led to the Employment First Executive Order.

The Kentucky Employment First Council was created by the Employment First Executive Order on May 15, 2018 and has been continued with an additional Executive Order on June 29, 2020. The 31-member group consists of people with disabilities, family members, employers, state agency representatives, and provider agencies. Employment First is the principal that everyone, including people with significant disabilities, can work in competitive integrated employment. Kentucky’s Executive Order states “…competitive and integrated employment in the community shall be considered the first and primary option for persons with disabilities of working age who have communicated a desire to become employed.” Subcommittees of the Council are: Advocacy, Providers, Employer Engagement, and Transition. Click for more information on the first meeting of the Employment First Council.

The KentuckyWorks Collaborative was created in January, 2019 by Executive Order to guide the implementation of the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board’s (KWIB) strategic plan. The 18-member collaborative includes members from federal agencies, local workforce boards, and employers. The KentuckyWorks Collaborative will set a common strategic direction, prioritize implementation actions, increase communication among stakeholders, and identify challenges and opportunities in implementation. Click for more information about the KentuckyWorks Collaborative.

RETAIN Kentucky* is one of five states awarded federal Phase 2 Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) demonstration grants. The RETAINing Kentucky’s Workforce through Universal Design (RKW-UD) pilot focused on using early, coordinated health and employment services to prevent long-term unemployment due to injury or illness caused by events off of a job. RETAIN is led by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), in partnership with the department’s Employment and Training Administration and the Social Security Administration. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation is the lead agency for the project. Phase 1 of the grant consists of a pilot project which began in June 2019 and includes Louisville, Lexington and surrounding counties. Kentucky has received Phase 2 of the grant to enable expansion of this Return to Work/Stay at Work model statewide.

Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Employment* (VRTAC-QE) – The Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Targeted Communities (VRTAC-QE) is designed to increase the knowledge and skills of state vocational rehabilitation agencies and community partners that help help with disabilities achieve quality employment and career advancement, with emphasis on competitive integrated employment. Kentucky is working with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to provide content, identify best practices, provide technical assistance, and share information nationwide.

The Community Work Transition Program* (CWTP) provides targeted  transition services to students and promotes successful movement into competitive integrated employment. The CWTP helps students with disabilities gain skills and obtain resources to be career ready through services provided by an Employment Specialist and/or school personnel. The Kentucky Department of Education, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky partnered to create CWTP. Click for more information on the Community Work Transition Program (CWTP).

The Supported Employment Training Project* (SETP) conducts trainings and offers technical assistance for supported employment providers who assist people with significant disabilities obtain and maintain good jobs. A project of the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky, SETP collaborates with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Click to learn more about the Supported Employment Training Project (SETP).

The HB144 Employment Subcommittee is a subcommittee of the HB144 Commission, which advises the Governor and General Assembly about the service system that impacts the lives of people with developmental disabilities. The HB144 Employment Subcommittee seeks to address employment and employment related issues for persons with developmental disabilities. The subcommittee includes members representing state agencies, service providers, advocacy agencies, lawmakers, and people with developmental disabilities. The subcommittee seeks to identify steps to create an efficient employment system that is supportive of people with developmental disabilities obtaining meaningful employment in the Commonwealth. Click for more information on the HB144 Employment Subcommittee.

The Individual Placement and Support Project* is an evidence-based practice that helps people with behavioral health conditions work at community jobs of their choosing. In Kentucky, the Individual Placement and Support Project is a partnership between the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky, the Division of Behavioral Health and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.  Click for more information on Individual Placement and Support Project.

The Coalition for Workforce Diversity is an alliance of companies, service providers and individuals working together in the Metro Louisville area to create competitive, integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Through a carefully constructed process, new partner businesses work collaboratively with existing Coalition partners to develop an understanding of workflow, production standards, employee culture and job duties. Using this information, candidates are selected from among the Coalition’s applicants to find the best possible match. Agency providers working with the Coalition then work to support their candidates in getting and maintaining the jobs to help achieve the best possible outcome. The Coalition meets monthly.  For more information, visit the Coalition for Workforce Diversity at

Work Incentives Planning Assistance (WIPA) services are provided at no charge by Goodwill Services in Lexington and the Center for Accessible Living in Louisville. Community Work Incentive Coordinators with these two agencies are available to assist SSI and SSDI disability beneficiaries across Kentucky and their families, as well as the professionals assisting them, in their return to work with individualized and personal benefits counseling and follow-along. WIPA services can also provide ongoing assistance on issues concerning benefits and work incentives as well as information about transitional assistance, medical benefits, public housing, SNAP, and resources for training or education related to employment including Ticket to Work. For more information, email or

Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers* (ISAW) is a collaborative project by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Kentucky Office of Autism, administered by the University of Kentucky’s Human Development Institute. The purpose of the project is to support Business Service Teams and human resources managers across the state in their effort to assist employers in working with employees on the autism spectrum by providing in-person trainings, online modules, and ongoing technical assistance. Click for more information on ISAW.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) requires the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to spend at least 15% of their federal VR funds to provide Pre-Employment Training Services (Pre-ETS) to high school students ages 14-21 with an IEP, 504 plan, or documentation of a disability.  These services can include job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences, workplace readiness training, post-secondary counseling and instruction in self-advocacy. OVR contracts with partners to ensure that these services are available to students statewide.  These partners include the regional education cooperatives, the Community Work Transition Program (CWTP), community rehabilitation providers, Jobs for Kentucky’s graduates (JAG KY), and the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS).

The Social Security Administration (SSA)’s voluntary “Ticket to Work” Program supports SSA beneficiaries who want to find, enter and retain employment. Ticket to Work participants select an employment services provider or Employment Network (EN) to provide a range of services to help in this endeavor.  ENs can be public or private, and contract with SSA to provide services and receive payments when Ticket holders reach certain milestones or outcomes related to employment goals. More ENs are needed to expand long term capacity for supports in Kentucky. In some states, local workforce boards have developed successful EN programs.

The Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation mission is to empower Kentuckians with disabilities to maximize their independence and economic security through competitive, integrated employment.  Vocational Rehabilitation serves people in all 120 counties with a variety of services which include career counseling, work skills (both hard and soft skills) development, assistive technology and other specialized services to help individuals enter the workforce and plan for career advancement.  The Office partners with many of the employment initiatives in this list. For more information, visit the website at:


*Grant or contract funded
Revised December 22, 2021

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