Work Without Limits Kick-Off Event
by David Hoff, Institute for Community Inclusion, UMass Boston
Five Regional Employment Collaboratives recently awarded Work Without Limits grant funds to improve the employment rate of individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts, attended an all-day kick off event on July 29, 2009 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.
At this event, representatives from each of the five Collaboratives expressed excitement regarding the opportunity to have a major impact on improving employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities through a collaborative service delivery and business engagement model.
During the event, each of the Collaboratives shared their vision and goals for their respective projects, whose activities will take place over a 30-month period. Common goals echoed throughout the presentations included:
- accomplishing systems change through working collaboratively across public agencies and service providers to create more streamlined service delivery, and increasing capacity and responsiveness to the needs of individuals with disabilities and employers;
- increasing access to portions of the job market that have traditionally been difficult for people with disabilities to enter;
- better use of labor market information to guide job development and placement activities, and ensure all aspects of the employment market are being explored
- enhancing the skill level of individuals with disabilities to enable them to better match their talents with labor market needs and increase their potential for higher wage jobs and long-term success.
In addition to presentations by each of the Collaboratives, strong cross-agency support at the state level for the goals and activities of the Collaboratives was expressed by Executive Office of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Disabilities Policies and Programs Jean McGuire, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commissioner Charlie Carr, and Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Undersecretary Jennifer James. Each of these state leaders expressed enthusiastic commitment and support from their respective agencies to assist the Collaboratives in their efforts to demonstrate new approaches to dramatically improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
Dr. Jay Himmelstein of UMass Medical School’s Center for Health Policy and Research (CHPR) provided the attendees with an overview of the Work Without Limits initiative. Through this presentation, the Collaboratives gained an understanding of how their efforts fit within the overall priority areas for Work Without Limits.
Alexis Henry and Kathy Petkauskos of CHPR provided attendees background and summary information regarding the Regional Employment Collaborative initiative, emphasizing the overarching goal of working to improve competitive employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities through enhanced teamwork, communication and coordination among service providers, state agencies, employers, schools and people with disabilities.
The Collaboratives were also provided information on the assistance they will be receiving from project staff in evaluating their project’s progress and outcomes, as well as technical support being provided by the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston.
The five Collaboratives awarded funds are:
- Berkshire County Regional Employment Collaborative (Lead agency: Berkshire County ARC)
- Bristol Employment Collaborative (Lead agency: PRIDE, Inc.)
- Central Massachusetts Regional Employment Collaborative (Lead agency: Riverside Community Care)
- Greater Boston Employment Collaborative (Lead agency: Jewish Vocational Services, Inc.)
- Metro South West Regional Employment Collaborative (Lead agency: Employment Options, Inc.)
For more information on the Collaboratives or the Work Without Limits initiative, contact Kathy Petkauskos, Senior Program Director at UMass Medical School by calling 508-856-3897 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org