Governor Roy Cooper officially declared North Carolina as an Employment First State through signing of an Executive Order today in Kernersville, NC at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council.
“Employment First” refers to the belief that employment in the general workforce should be the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities. The principles of Employment First include working in integrated settings and earning competitive wages and benefits; securing employment with reasonable and appropriate placement and support; employees with and without disabilities are equally valued and that jobs should match an individual’s work skills, abilities and career choices to the greatest extent possible.
This effort has been in the making for over 10 years. The collective impact of state agencies like NC Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of of Mental Health/Substance Abuse Services/Developmental Disabilities, Office of Disability Employment Policy; nonprofit organizations like Association of People Supporting Employment First; and many community advocates have brought the state to this milestone for people with disabilities and employment.
“This is a very exciting moment for the disability community,” said Alexandra McArthur, chairperson of the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities. “Employment offers a rewarding sense of purpose, high expectations and an ability to contribute to society. People with disabilities are talented, capable and ready to work – and we are excited to see the State of North Carolina support this effort.”
In North Carolina, there are approximately 1.3 million individuals with disabilities who experience disproportionately high levels of unemployment, residential segregation, dependence and poverty. Additionally, less than 35 percent of North Carolinians who are between the ages of 18 and 64 and have a disability are employed – a stark contrast to the nearly 76 percent of North Carolinians without disabilities who are employed.
This announcement comes on the heels of many employment initiatives that have begun across the State to increase employment outcomes for underserved and unserved communities.
In 2017, the NC Job Ready Initiative better aligned public sector resources with the evolving needs of businesses; and Hometown Strong Initiative in 2018 bolstered existing public-private efforts to expand employment opportunities to all North Carolinians.
NCCDD launched EveryBody Works North Carolina to increase awareness of the skills and expertise of North Carolinians with disabilities; provide them and their families with information on how to access training and education; help them become more competitive for available job opportunities; and to improve their job readiness.