Agencies Partner to Aid School-to-Work Transition for Youth with Disabilities

Tuesday, August 04, 2015 | 10:18am

NASHVILLE—Five state agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve services and better prepare youth with disabilities to transition from school into integrated employment in the community. 

The MOU focuses on students age 14 years and over and aims to ensure all youth with disabilities leaving secondary education are prepared for either post-secondary training and/or integrated employment appropriate for their preferences, interests, skills and abilities.  

“It’s vitally important that all state agencies work together to make sure youth with disabilities leave school and have the opportunity to contribute to the workforce,” Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) Commissioner Debra Payne said.  “It takes a team effort to make sure they have the training and support necessary to make that happen.”

Two years ago, Governor Haslam signed Executive Order No. 28, which created a task force comprised of state agencies, families, consumer advocates and service providers to address obstacles to employment for people living with disabilities. This MOU was a part of a three-year plan laid out by the task force.

“The MOU represents a commitment to a seamless flow of services and supports that provide meaningful experiences for youth with disabilities in determining and reaching their future career goals,” Department of Human Services Commissioner Dr. Raquel Hatter said. “We are honored to play a part in their journey toward success.”

In order to accomplish the goal set forth in the MOU, the partner agencies will strive to ensure that:

  • Youth with disabilities leave school prepared for integrated employment with access to necessary support services
  • Transition services necessary for youth to move to post-secondary training and/or employment services will be identified prior to exit from school
  • DIDD and vocational rehabilitation grantees and vendors are subject to a performance-based rate structure that emphasizes integrated employment outcomes
  • Work opportunities are consistent with employer and industry needs

“Labor and Workforce Development has all kinds of tools to help these young workers find meaningful jobs, and we have the connections with employers and partner agencies to foster their success,” Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips said.

 “The needs of our young people are great, especially those who must overcome disabilities in pursuit of opportunities to succeed and do great things,” Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner E. Douglas Varney said. “Through our relationships and friendships across the state of Tennessee, my hope is we can help ensure every young person with the desire and motivation will have the chance to realize the rewards of a fulfilling career.”

The commissioners for the departments of Education, Human Services, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Labor and Workforce Development and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services all signed the MOU.  The Council on Developmental Disabilities will be the lead agency and convene the MOU Oversight Committee.  The group will meet at least quarterly. 

“The Council is proud of the collaborative work done by all the agencies that developed this Memorandum of Understanding,” Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities Executive Director Wanda Willis said.  “As an Employment First state, Tennessee takes a momentous step towards ensuring employment opportunities are available for every person with a disability through effective and efficient government programs.”

The entire Memorandum of Understanding, including the specific roles and responsibilities of each agency, can be found at: http://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/didd/attachments/Tennessee_Youth_MOU_signed.pdf

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