On Oct. 24, members of Tennessee’s Employment First Task Force presented their annual report to Governor Bill Haslam. Gov. Haslam toured Food City in Kingsport, Tenn., where several Transition School to Work Program participants from Dobyns-Bennet High School are succeeding.
In 2013, Gov.Haslam signed Executive Order No. 28, establishing the Employment First Task Force in Tennessee. The Task Force supports the commitment of State partnership agencies to increase integrated, competitive employment.
With a shared vision to increase employment for all Tennesseans with disabilities, Task Force workgroups have focused on the areas of policy, providers, individuals with disabilities and families, and data. For three years, members have met quarterly to work towards the goals established in the Executive Order.
Those goals were as follows:
- Align service delivery systems and strengthen coordination to increase employment opportunities for Tennesseans with disabilities;
- Build shared community commitment to “Employment First” for individuals with disabilities;
- Increase the number of businesses and employers throughout Tennessee who actively seek and hire individuals with disabilities;
- Make Tennessee a model public sector employer through actions to employ more people with disabilities and through policy and regulatory change;
- Prepare students in Tennessee schools for employment throughout their education and connect them to essential services.
Over the past two years, the Task Force has focused on completing the objectives laid out in the original strategic plan. In addition, it developed a new plan with new objectives to guide work over the next three years, starting with the past fiscal year.
Some of the areas of focus this past year included the implementation of the Employment and Community First CHOICES program and launch of the Transition Tennessee site.
Gov. Haslam’s office welcomed Jason Rogers, a first-year student with the IDEAL inclusive higher education program at Lipscomb University, as an intern during the Spring legislative session. Jason was the first person with a disability to intern at the Governor’s office. In the Governor’s introduction to the report, he noted, “I witnessed the inspiring work of Task Force members this Spring. I was proud to have Jason Rogers serving on my staff as an intern during a very busy legislative session…[T]he members of this Task Force can take pride knowing they have created that opportunity for countless Tennesseans, positively influencing their lives for years to come.” Jason’s internship experience is featured as a success story in the report.
Gov. Haslam traveled to Kingsport, Tennessee, where he met several students from the Transition School to Work program at Dobyns-Bennett High School. The Governor toured the Food City grocery store, where many of the students from the program work.
Caleb Peters, a student who is currently an employee in the deli at Food City, presented the Governor with the 2017 Expect Employment Report. The Transition School to Work program at Dobyns-Bennett High School was previously featured in a video produced by the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
The Task Force intends to build on the work it has already accomplished. There are thousands of Tennesseans with disabilities who want to work, and this task force must support them in making their employment dreams a reality.
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center members on the Employment First Task Force are Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director, VKC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD); Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D., associate director of Community Services, VKC UCEDD; and Erik Carter, Ph.D., Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair, professor of Special Education, and VKC member. McMillan also serves on the Task Force Executive Leadership Team.
Download a copy of the 2017 Expect Employment Report:
Watch a video presentation of the 2017 Expect Employment Report:
Watch a video featuring the Transition School to Work program at Dobyns-Bennett High School: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl_SlLgPbSA
Read local coverage of the event in the Kingsport Times-News:
Rachael Jenkins is Dissemination program coordinator, TennesseeWorks.
Pictured top of page: Screen shot from Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities video presentation “Employment First Federal Support in 2018”