Employment First

Increase community-based, integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities

A critical priority for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), is to invest in systems change efforts that result in increased community-based, integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities.

This priority reflects growing support for a national movement called Employment First, a framework for systems change that is centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.

Under this approach, publicly-financed systems are urged to align policies, service delivery practices, and reimbursement structures to commit to integrated employment as the priority option with respect to the use of publicly-financed day and employment services for youth and adults with significant disabilities. ODEP defines integrated employment as work paid directly by employers at the greater of minimum or prevailing wages with commensurate benefits, occurring in a typical work setting where the employee with a disability interacts or has the opportunity to interact continuously with co-workers without disabilities, has an opportunity for advancement and job mobility, and is preferably engaged full-time. Many states have formally committed to the Employment First framework through official executive proclamation or formal legislative action.

Source: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/employmentfirst.htm

Member Resources

The Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, is coordinated by the State of Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council. Incompass Michigan is pleased to be part of the this grant and to be one of only two states that have included  service providers in the grant process.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Technical Assistance Grant is geared toward progress in the transformation of service providers to a business model that emphasizes competitive, integrated employment. Provider participants worked with the subject matter experts (SMEs) on identifying reporting goals and a baseline for demonstrating whether progress is being made, organizational plans, and staff training.

The three primary focus areas have been:

  • Provider Transformation
  • Rate and Reimbursement Restructuring
  • Capacity Building

An additional element of the grant focused on transition services.

The links provided will connect you to a Provider Transformation Self Analysis tool developed by SME Genni Sasnett; there is also a compilation of the landscape reports generated by all subject matter experts who worked with Michigan during FY 15.


ODEP Provider Self Analysis Worksheet (PDF)

Provider Transformation Manual (PDF)

Staff Recruitment, Retention and Motivation (PDF)

Strategies to Improve Partnerships with Families Webinar

Negotiating Rates with Managed Care Entities and Advocating for Effective and Sustainable Services Webinar

Tools for Building Meaningful Lives The Positive Personal Profile (PDF)

Positive Personal Profile Template (DOCX)

Tools for Building Meaningful Lives The Life Skills Assessment (PDF)

Life Skills Assessment Template (XLSX)

Family Engagement Training

In 2019, the Michigan Employment First Initiative sponsored the creation of two training resources to build the capacity of educators, employment professionals and advocates on how to better engage families around employment. During the train-the-trainer session, Mr. Roy spoke about the crucial role families’ play in the lives of youth and adults with significant disabilities. Engaging families and self-advocates has proven to improve employment outcomes for individuals with I/DD.

A Future that Includes Employment: A Workshop for Families

Target Audience: Family members and caregivers of youth with significant disabilities. Though the presentation is appropriate for families of youth of all ages, the content is designed to inform families with youth ages 12-26 about employment possibilities. This training may also be useful as a professional training resource, helping those working with families to better understand how to envision high expectations for employment success.






Lighting the Way: Helping Families See Possibilities in Competitive Employment

Target Audience:  Employment professionals who work with youth and individuals with significant disabilities. It aims to help attendees better understand the experience and motivations of families so working relationships can be built and community-based employment outcomes can improve. This session is appropriate for staff of employment programs, VR counselors, educators (including transition and work experience coordinators), and other professionals that participate in the employment process.






Employment First Executive Order

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – Lt. Gov. Brian Calley today signed an executive order that will lead to increased job opportunities for Michiganders with disabilities.

Executive Order 2015-15, establishes Employment First in Michigan and helps foster an inclusive environment that will create competitive employment opportunities for working-age individuals. The order aims to improve access to workplace support and services for people with disabilities.

“Employment First encourages workplace diversity and enhances economic development while further designating Michigan as an equal opportunity state,” Calley said. “Michiganders with all abilities deserve to live independent, self-determined lives. The ability to work leads to enhanced social interaction, community involvement and economic independence, and a sense of pride that all people desire.”

The order encourages businesses and organizations to create career opportunities and to foster personal and professional growth for those with a disability that may impact their life and daily activities. It also stresses the importance of information sharing across businesses and organizations that value diverse skill sets.

Under the order, state departments and agencies that provide services and support to people with disabilities, and all state departments that work to provide employment, economic development, or other related services will implement Employment First by coordinating efforts to ensure policies, procedures and funding appropriately support competitive employment opportunities. The State Rehabilitation Council will oversee its implementation.

“We have been working to raise awareness of the value that Michiganders with disabilities can add to the workplace through the MI Hidden Talent Tour,” Calley said. “Employment First takes those efforts to the next level while accomplishing a key recommendation of the Michigan Mental Health and Wellness Commission.”

Article V, Section 26 of the Michigan Constitution gives authority to the lieutenant governor to sign executive orders when the governor is out of state.

Source: http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-73341-369654–,00.html