Kentucky Work Matters Task Force final report looks at ways to create job opportunities for all Kentuckians

05/15/2018 05:03 PM

LEXINGTON – Breaking down barriers to employment among five key population groups was the aim of Kentucky’s Work Matters Task Force which released their final recommendations today.

Gov. Matt Bevin established the task force last summer and the group has worked to identify tangible actions to address barriers to employment and promote workforce inclusion among people with disabilities, foster children, disabled veterans, and individuals burdened by substance abuse or criminal records.

Highlights of the policy recommendations made by the Kentucky Work Matters Task Force include:

  • Streamlining occupational licensing for veterans to ensure they are given credit for similar training/experience they received in the military or in another state. (The recently enacted House Bill 319 will expedite occupational licensing for Kentucky veterans.)
  • Capitalizing on opportunities for the state to serve as model employer. (The Commonwealth is currently transitioning management of two large state cafeterias to the Kentucky Office for the Blind (OFB), providing job opportunities for the visually impaired.)
  • Increasing resources for the Fostering Success program, which provides job opportunities for youth aging out of the foster care system. (This year’s state budget included an increase of $375,000 per year to expand this program.)

*Increasing general fund allocations to the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and Office for the Blind (OFB) to draw down full available federal match. (This year’s state budget increased total funding by more than $9 million for OVR and OFB, which will serve approximately 6,500 more clients.) *Partnering with school systems to ensure that students with disabilities are included in career readiness and development programs.

The 23-member task force brought together every department of state government that has a hand in workforce development with members of the private sector. In addition to executive branch cabinet and agency leadership, the group includes four members of the General Assembly, a Kentucky Supreme Court designee, and four citizens at-large.

This task force has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Disability Employment and their State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED). SEED is a collaborative effort with state intermediary organizations, including the national Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) and the Council of State Governments (CSG), to help state leaders effectively address policy barriers that may hinder the employment of people with disabilities.

Bevin said the task force was established for the betterment of the state and all of its citizens.

“The reason we’re doing this is a little self serving, we need it, period,” Bevin said. “It’s morally the right thing to do to make sure we create employment opportunities for everybody, but beyond that, it’s a necessity.”

Council of State Governments Executive Director/CEO David Adkins says that the recommendations benefit both businesses and well as prospective employees.

“It’s a win-win, we know that everyone, regardless of their background, their geography, their gender, their disability, can come to the workforce,” Adkins said. “Employers benefit, a state’s prosperity grows and our national is ultimately able to fulfill its promise of all people being created equal.”

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, says the work of the task force will change a hazardous trend which had developed in the state.

“In the past, all too often, we’ve incentivized folks not to work,” Higdon said. “Those days have to be over. We need to incentivize folks to go to work. We have a job for every Kentuckian regardless regardless of their ability or disability.”

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley says the more people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky who are employed, the safer the state will be.

“It is the essence of public safety to take someone, who otherwise might return to crime, and connect them to a job,” Tilley said.

Despite recent progress, Kentucky’s labor participation rate still ranks in the bottom quintile among U.S. states. Additionally, 17.9 percent of the Commonwealth’s population is classified as “disabled,” compared to only 12.8 percent nationally.

During today’s press conference, Gov. Bevin also signed the Employment First executive order, recognizing that competitive integrated employment into the general workforce is the preferred outcome for citizens of all ages and levels of disability.

He also announced formation of the Employment First Council to continue momentum on targeted areas of the task force’s report.

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