Programs to increase the career and education opportunities for disconnected or out-of-school youth got a big boost from the new the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) rewrite, will include provisions to improve the employment chances for at-risk youth.
The Labor and Education Dept’s final regulations are now effective. The evolving federal disability employment policy presumes that all individuals with disabilities are employable when opportunity and support are available. The notion of the presumption of employability is a prominent underpinning of current “Employment First” initiatives.
These are grassroots initiatives advocating for states to make such programs the first option for employment services particularly for disconnected youth.
WIOA stresses physical and programmatic accessibility, including the use of accessible technology to increase individuals with disabilities’ access to high quality workforce services. It also emphasizes services to disconnected youth to prepare them for successful employment by requiring that a minimum of 75% of youth formula program funds be used to help these youth, in contrast to the 30% required under WIA.
The new workforce law also:
- Emphasizes the provision of services to students and youth with disabilities to ensure they have opportunities to receive the training and other services necessary to achieve competitive integrated employment
- Expands the population of students with disabilities who may receive services and the kinds of services that the agencies may provide to youth and students with disabilities who are transitioning from school to postsecondary education and employment.
- Mandates that Pre-Employment Transition Services must be made available statewide to all students with disabilities in need of such services, regardless of whether a student has applied for rehab services.
DoEd sais that services may begin once a student requests or is recommended for one or more pre-employment transition services and documentation of a disability is provided to the agency;
But, programs must assist students with identifying career interests to be further explored through additional VR services, including transition services. And, they must be provided or arranged in collaboration with School Districts. These services are paid through a special program set-aside.
There is much in WIOA that represents strong support for employment of youth with significant disabilities. These include reducing the use of subminimum wages, a requirement for school/vocational rehabilitation (VR) collaboration, targeted supported employment services funds for youth with the most significant disabilities, and especially, the designated VR funds for Pre-Employment Transition Services, which include services to support the kinds of work experience that are key to successful transition to Competitive Integrated Employment.
State education agencies and their partners should become familiar with the Olmstead settlement agreements (http://goo.gl/Q8Qrkz) between the Justice Dept. (DOJ) and Rhode Island and between DOJ, private plaintiffs and Oregon which require these states to change their service systems to decrease the use of segregated center-based day services and increase the capacity of Competitive Integrated Employment.
Info: http://goo.gl/WzyNbF (DoEd website).