Kentucky’s Employment First Council assembled for its first meeting on Thursday, October 4. The 27 member group is comprised of people with disabilities, family members, employers, state agency representatives, and provider agencies. The Council was convened as a result of an Executive Order, signed by Governor Matt Bevin on May 15, 2018, making Kentucky an Employment First state. Employment First is the philosophy that everyone, including people with significant disabilities, can work in 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”.
Katie Whaley and Judith Bradley will serve as co-chairs of the Employment First Council. The Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky is administering the Council, and will assist the group in meeting its charge.
“The Employment First Council has a full plate of work to accomplish in order to increase meaningful employment opportunities in the Commonwealth,” says Kathy Sheppard-Jones, HDI’s Executive Director. The Council is charged with several directives, that include:
- Identifying state policies that create disincentives to employment for people with disabilities and developing recommendations that eliminate them.
- Develop training and resources on meaningful and productive jobs within the general workforce for a variety of audiences, including people with disabilities, families, providers and employers.
- Recommend implementation of effective practices that increase employment opportunities, and;
- Establish measurable goals to assess progress of these efforts.
All of this focus is intended to increase employment of workers with a disability in the general workforce, resulting in a workforce that will continue to grow the economy of the state. The Kentucky Employment First Council will provide an annual progress report to the Governor.