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Building a Roadmap that Supports the National WIOA System to Navigate Inclusive Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities

June 28, 2018

Over the past several months, the LEAD Center has researched effective strategies nationwide in serving people with disabilities and reaching positive employment outcomes through Inclusive Career Pathways. The research has found that the six elements of Career Pathways are:

•    Build Cross-Agency Partnerships & Clarify Roles;
•    Identify Industry Sector and Engage Employers;
•    Design Education and Training Programs;
•    Identify Funding Needs and Sources;
•    Align Policies and Programs; and
•    Measure System Change and Performance.

Multiple states and local areas were identified by LEAD and the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) with promising practices in the areas of accessibility, disability employment, equal opportunity, and financial capability. These regions have developed strong working partnerships across systems and implemented successful strategies in serving customers with multiple challenges and barriers to employment. The information-gathering process involved interviewing key people in workforce regions who are involved in various aspects of Career Pathways implementation, from policy to practice, as well as those who served in a role that focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities. Interviews were held with State/local Workforce Development Board leadership, American Job Center (AJC) management and staff, core and required partners (e.g., Vocational Rehabilitation), DEI staff, and other community-based partners. Discussions centered around the six elements of Career Pathways listed above, with emphasis on workforce customer flow, access points to Career Pathways, existing challenges, and success stories.

This collection of practices, experiences and partnerships will be included in an Inclusive Career Pathways roadmap that supports WIOA and career pathways system and partners, focusing on employment and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. The Inclusive Career Pathways Roadmap will highlight key partnerships, the roles of partners, and critical resource coordination that supports individuals toward successful outcomes. The Roadmap also will include specific approaches and strategies for building partnerships between workforce and VR, implementing Ticket to Work, accessing work incentives counseling, and integrating financial education. While the roadmap is in development stages, below are several of the overarching themes that are emerging across and within workforce systems around Inclusive Career Pathways:

•    Intentional Cross-Title & Partner Workgroups that Move from Collaboration to Action

Workgroups allow for continuous information-sharing, decision-making, partnership strengthening, and action planning between systems to develop/implement policies effectively on the local level.

•    Systems Alignment & Co-Enrollment Requires Proactive Agreement & Active Coordination

Cross-partner systems proactively address the myth that “everyone is the funder of last resort” and formalize active resource coordination processes at the leadership and service levels, allowing workforce staff to collaborate seamlessly with multiple partners without halting service flow for the customer.

•    AJCs Have Access to Trusted Resources & Staff to Consult on Employment for People with Disabilities

Staff and/or partners with disability expertise, such as Disability Resource Coordinators (DRCs) or VR Counselors, are available to WIOA staff and partners in order to brainstorm solutions to employment challenges, identify supports and resources, and for case conferencing at any point along the customer flow.