Gov. Matt Bevin today announced the creation of the Kentucky Work Matters Task Force at a press conference with federal and state officials and other special guests in the State Capitol Rotunda.
The new 23-member task force will bring together every department of state government that has a hand in workforce development with members of the private sector. Their mission is to address barriers to employment and promote workforce inclusion among people with disabilities, foster children, disabled veterans, and individuals burdened by substance abuse or criminal records.
“There is dignity that comes from work, and there is a sense of satisfaction and respect—for oneself and for others—that comes from being an engaged part of the community,” said Gov. Bevin. “And there’s nothing more integral than the dignity associated with being part of the fabric of that community through work.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Sheehy of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy commended Kentucky, which is the first state in the nation to initiate such a task force.
“We realize that the real change and the real work does not happen at the federal level,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Sheehy. “We need to look at what federal policies do work, but also what is happening in states that works—and then support that.”
Gov. Bevin and Deputy Assistant Secretary Sheehy were joined at the press conference by Council of State Governments director/CEO David Adkins, Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey, Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, and Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development executive officer Vivek Sarin.
Also participating in today’s event were Little Caesars Pizza franchisee Mike Michalak, Cincinnati Reds batboy Teddy Kremer, and Spalding University men’s golf coaches Michael Carter and Grant Gupton, who underscored what can be achieved when individuals are given opportunities.
Current statistics show Kentucky’s labor participation rate at 54.7 percent, well below the national average of 62.9 percent. In addition, 15.7 percent of the Commonwealth’s population is classified as “disabled,” compared to only 10.4 percent nationally.
Gov. Bevin strongly believes that citizens with disabilities and Kentuckians facing other obstacles to employment have valuable and unique contributions to lend to our society and our labor force, yet in many cases are underutilized. Employment is the most direct and cost-effective means to empower these individuals to achieve independence, economic self-sufficiency, and a greater sense of dignity and self-worth.
The Kentucky Work Matters Task Force will work closely with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy and their State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED). SEED is a collaborative effort with state intermediary organizations, including the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and The Council of State Governments (CSG), to help state leaders effectively address policy barriers that may hinder the employment of people with disabilities.
Members of the task force include:
The group will present a final report that will include policy recommendations on improving workforce participation rates for individuals with disabilities, as well as other populations with impediments to employment, across the Commonwealth.