Harrisburg, PA – In March, Governor Tom Wolf signed Executive Order 2016-03, entitled “Establishing ‘Employment First’ Policy and Increasing Competitive-Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability.” The goal of this executive order is to make the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania a model state when it comes to creating a climate hospitable to workers with a disability. Under this executive order, competitive, integrated employment becomes the first consideration and preferred outcome of publicly funded education, training, employment, and long-term supports and service programs for working-age Pennsylvanians with a disability.
“Pennsylvanians with a disability are valued members of society who make important contributions to our state’s workforce,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “There is dignity in work, and when people with a disability hold jobs and earn competitive wages they can achieve greater independence and inclusion in the community.”
The executive order directed the Departments of Labor and Industry, Human Services, and Education to obtain stakeholder and business input and work with other agencies as appropriate to develop a plan within 120 days to implement the executive order.
This plan, which can be reviewed in full here, makes the following recommendations:
- Review, identify, and change policy to align with Executive Order 2016-03.
- Raise the expectations of employment goals for children with a disability at an early age. Work with parents and publicly-funded programs to shift expectations towards this goal.
- Prepare young people with a disability to become working adults with a disability.
- Transition students from secondary education to adult life. Assist adults with a disability in getting and keeping a job.
- Improve access to reliable transportation to get to and from work, on time, every time.
- Lead by example – improve state contracts and reduce barriers to commonwealth employment.
- Expand private-public partnerships.
- Increase public awareness.
- Collect and coordinate data.
- Implement, monitor, and provide accountability.
“People with disabilities are like everyone else,” said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. “They want to work and live in the community with their families and friends. This plan will help them realize these goals and succeed in the workforce.”
“Labor & Industry and our Office of Vocational Rehabilitation is all about jobs for everyone, including and especially those with a disability,” said Secretary Kathy Manderino. “We practice what we preach, too. Our goal is to increase employment for people with disabilities among L&I’s 191 offices and nearly 5,000 employees. The Employment First Executive Order only reinforces this important goal.”
“Education can be the key to overcoming barriers to success,” Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera said. “By working with our state partners, the Department of Education is helping to ensure every student has an education that meets their needs and aids them in finding meaningful postsecondary or career opportunities.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 20 percent of people with a disability participate in the labor force, meaning they are either employed or unemployed but looking for work, compared to a 63 percent labor participation rate for all people. By creating a climate hospitable to workers with a disability, the commonwealth can tap an undervalued labor pool.
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