In a blog posted on June 21, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez discussed the importance of Employment First. Employment First is a concept to facilitate the full inclusion of people with the most significant disabilities in the workplace and community. Under the Employment First approach, community-based, integrated employment is the first option for employment services for youth and adults with significant disabilities.
Martinez said that her agency is "ready to assist states, businesses and providers improve access to integrated employment and other community-based supports as the preferred option for youth and adults with significant disabilities." She mentioned the Employment First State Leadership Mentorning Program, which provides funding to state to assist them in developing and implementing their strategic plan, and will give them access to customized technical assistance from experts to help them achieve their goals. It pairs protege states (Iowa, Tennessee, and Oregon) with mentor Washington state.
Martinez emphasized the importance of states utilizing not only federal resources, but also of collaboration with their state peers to share information and best practices as they pursue the goal of integrated employment for people with significant disabilities.