Minnesota Employment Task Force
Alan Parnes, MNCDHH member, proposed that an Employment Task Force be established to focus on deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind individuals’ unmet employment needs. This task force addresses the concerns in the areas of transition from school to work, job-seeking skills and placement services, maintaining employment, advancing in employment, and employment discrimination issues by implementing the recommendations made by the Governor’s Workforce Development Council Policy Recommendations contained in their report, All Hands on Deck. These recommendations include:
- Employer Relations
- Establish the State of Minnesota as a Model Employer of people with disabilities
- Accountability- State agencies set employment goals for people with disabilities, develop strategies to meet them and report outcomes in a centralized report to the legislature
- Internship and Work Opportunities- Increase the number for people with disabilities
- Staff training- Ensure that training programs for state hiring managers address benefits and opportunities of hiring people with disabilities
- Consolidated Accommodation Funding- create a centralized pool for accommodations for people with disabilities- eliminate the disincentives for employers.
- Workforce Centers- Make them accessible
- Skills training
- Increase Adult Credential Attainment
- Increase Post-Secondary Readiness
The Employment Task Force is broken down into three work groups:
We are using as a foundation for the Employment Task Force the following resources
Who has made the commitment
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
National Governors Association
President Obama – Presidential Proclamation – Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities
Work Skills Work Group
Work Skills Development Group will develop strategies to increase skill development that earn credentials leading to high demand jobs by:
- Working with MNSCU and others on post-secondary credentials including, but not limited to: FASTTRAC, skill certification, work based learning apprenticeship and internships and mentoring.
- Training workers in soft skills and the written and unwritten rules in the workplace statewide using VRI or one to one.
- Targeting the following groups: transition aged youths, immigrants who are deaf, deafblind and hard-of-hearing, American born deaf and deafblind with limited English proficiency.
Work Skills Work Group Meeting Minutes
Accessibility Work Group
Accessibility Committee: Accessibility Workgroup will develop strategies to increase the accessibility of the workforce centers, skill assessments such as Accuplacer, and advocate for a Communication Access Fund.
Accessibility Work Group Meeting Minutes
Employer Relations Work Group
Employer Relations Committee will develop strategies to increase job opportunities for skilled and educated workers by developing relationships with employers and show them what workers who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing can do (address bias). The group will:
- Encourage Internships and mentorships that will lead to full-time competitive employment
- Use TJ Max as a model- the positive things that can happen
- Learn from lesson from Home Depot- did that effort work?
- Work with employers who have said they want to hire people with disabilities-Walgreens
- Work with the Minnesota Business Leadership Network
Employer Relations Work Group Meeting Minutes
Past and/or Ongoing Employment Work
Senate College Internship Program
This provides a timeline of selection of interns
State Services for the Blind (SSB) Rule-making
MCDHH is advocating for rule changes to enhance services for deafblind individuals. MCDHH attended all of the State Services for the Blind (SSB) rulemaking sessions from June 9, 2010 through August 11, 2010. MCDHH recommended that every time the rules used the words “blind or vision impaired,” that SSB add the term “deafblind.” Another recommendation was that SSB add “adjustment to deafblindness” whenever “adjustment to blindness” is used. MCDHH’s comments may be downloaded here.
View an explanation of rules
View a schedule of past and future rule-making sessions
Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative (MEPI)
View MEPI site
MCDHH hosted a listening session on employment and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing on August 25, 2010, which Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative (MEPI).facilitated. Eighteen participants worked to identify strategies for increasing employment rates among individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. (A separate session focusing on individuals who are deafblind was held in February 2010.)
The listening session was one of ten planned by MEPI to develop leadership and facilitate dialogue about disability and employment policy with the goal of doubling the rate of competitive employment among Minnesotans with disabilities by 2015. Stakeholders asked MCDHH to write a proposal for a Consolidated Accommodations Fund to the Pathways to Employment, a DHS program that gets $2,000,000 a year.
Participants were asked to vote, and five areas were identified as the top priorities:
- Pilot project funded by Pathways to Employment to address accommodations funding for promotion of hiring of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Transition services
- Systems change
- Advancement opportunities for individuals who are employed
- Engagement of employers
(The full report (Policy Brief) will be posted when it becomes available)
The report will guide MCDHH in developing goals and objectives using the new Employment Task Force structure.
Governor’s Workforce Development Council’s Disability Employment Committee
The Governor’s Workforce Development Council (GWDC) http://www.gwdc.org/ helps employers and workers develop policies that will lead to a more vibrant economy in Minnesota.
MCDHH attended meetings held by the GWDC Disability Policy Committee during 2009 and 2010, and worked collaboratively with other disability agencies to develop recommendations to increase employment for Minnesotans with disabilities. On August 9, 2010, MCDHH attended the full council meeting to urge members to adopt the recommendations. The recommendations passed unanimously.
- Requiring that the state set hiring goals with timelines for people with disabilities within all levels of employment in state government by enforcing Administrative Rule 3905.0600, and requiring contracts that go to workers in protected classes to include people with disabilities and businesses owned by people with disabilities.
- Eliminating disincentives for hiring people with disabilities by creating a Consolidated Accommodations Fund that would pay for accessibility costs and by making Workforce Centers accessible.
- Creating incentives for hiring people with disabilities by establishing internship programs.
The GWDC staff will attempt to have these recommendations included in the policy agenda for the next governor. Commission Member Rhonda Sivarajah serves on the GWDC. MCDHH will monitor and advocate for the implementation of these recommendations.
Employment for people with disabilities has not increased in the 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed. While 75% of the general population is employed, only 22% of people with disabilities are employed. The unemployment rate for the general population is 9%, while the rate for people with disabilities is close to 15%. We need to look for ways apart from the ADA to increase employment.
Approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population has hearing loss, or 28 million people, according to the National Institutes of Health. There are no solid statistics about unemployment among deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people, but experts believe it is high because of the communication barriers and discrimination in the workplace. MCDHH is committed to removing those barriers supporting or leading in different ways as outlined below.
Minnesota Employment Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
View MEC site
MCDHH worked successfully with the Minnesota Employment Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MEC) management team to convince Minnesota legislators to fund competitive and supported employment services for deaf and hard of hearing people. MCDHH continues to advocate with MEC to maintain MEC’s state funding.
VECTOR Transition Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
VECTOR, a nationally-recognized transition program offered by Intermediate School District 287 to people between the ages of 18 and 21, has served deaf and hard of hearing students in Minnesota since 1987. The program helps students increase skills and abilities within three transition areas: education and training, employment and independent living skills.
In 2007, MCDHH helped VECTOR secure state funding for sign language interpreters. This has resulted in increased referrals from school districts that previously were unable to afford tuition before the state subsidy. More than 10 districts from around the state now participate.
During the 2008-2009 academic year, MCDHH worked with MEC and VECTOR to secure grant funding for an onsite specialist to provide employment support, education and post-school follow-up. This specialist worked with both VECTOR students and recent graduates up to 25 years old who were unemployed. The program lasted only 18 months, but had a 95% success rate. Efforts are underway for new funding to ensure that the program continues.
Waiver for Commercial Vehicle Drivers
In the late 1990s, MCDHH and commission members worked with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to make rule changes resulting in qualified deaf and hard of hearing persons being allowed to drive commercial vehicles within Minnesota.
View DOT site (scroll down to “Deaf/Hard of Hearing”)
Download DOT PDF
Waiver for Type III Bus Vehicles
In 2008, lawmakers realized that there were no requirements for Type III bus drivers. A driver was not tested for drugs, and an accident took place in which he and a girl died. As a result, legislation was passed requiring Type III drivers to take a physical that followed federal requirements. One of the requirements was a hearing test, which meant deaf and hard of hearing employees at schools serving deaf and hard of hearing children were not allowed to drive. In 2009, MCDHH successfully advocated for legislation allowing deaf or hard of hearing drivers to operate Type III buses, such as minivans.