Sunday, January 27, 2008

Viva El Manifesto!

As I have shared here in other posts, I am a member of Minnesota’s Employment First Coalition and assisted in the planning of a statewide employment summit. The purpose of the summit was to begin planning a coordinated strategy to increase the competitive employment and economic development goals of Minnesotans with a wide array of disabilities. The Minnesota Employment First Summit was the result of these efforts and this event was held in Chaska, Minnesota on June 12, 2007. The Summit was attended by an invited group of more than 100 employment-first champions representing government, education, community-based service providers, business, and disability advocacy organizations.
Despite many breakthroughs in education methods, school transition strategies, employment practices, and emerging technologies, most Minnesotans with significant disabilities are not working in integrated jobs in the workforce at competitive wages and benefits. When customary standards for competitive employment are applied, the generally accepted estimate of unemployment for working-age youth and adults with significant disabilities is 70% or higher. This is the highest unemployment rate of all minority populations!
The leaders attending the Minnesota Employment First Summit acknowledged this unemployment rate is unacceptable and driven by low expectations concerning the job placement potential of youth and adults with wide array of disabilities. The lack of a clearly articulated expectation and coordinated vision is quite evident in inflexible public policies, complex and cumbersome funding, inadequate professional training and expertise, a low infusion of evidence-based research, fragmented and competing service systems, and historicity in long-term disability services. Collectively, these factors are contributing to ineffective practices and disappointing job placement outcomes.
"We have been discussing the need for meaningful systems changes in Minnesota for more than 20 years. When are we going to take it seriously and do what needs to be done?" asked one Summit attendee, speaking for many in the group.
The Summit’s attendees shared many excellent ideas to increase the competitive employment of Minnesotans with significant disabilities. Individually and collectively, the Summit’s attendees shared diverse views about how we can move forward in making employment the first and preferred choice of Minnesotans with disabilities no matter how significant the disability is. All recommendations from the Summit are contained in a consensus report entitled A Manifesto on the Employment of Minnesotans in the Competitive, Integrated Workforce.
In many ways, I view the Manifesto as a seminal document in promoting a new vision for the State of Minnesota. This consensus report offers specific action steps to begin a new dialogue about changing the fundamental direction of Minnesota’s public and private systems of education, employment, and disability services. Each of the Summit's core recommendations offer promise for improving services and outcomes. However, when taken together as a group, the eight recommendations deliver a blueprint for fundamental and sweeping changes in thinking, vision, expectations, language, goals, policies, and actions.
I am pleased to announce here the release of this consensus report and all recommendations flowing from Minnesota's Employment First Summit in 2007. The Manifesto is available for download and review at Minnesota APSE–The Network on Employment's website or directly at the link provided below.

Minnesota's Employment First Summit: A Consensus Report

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