Employment First In New Jersey – What’s It Mean and How Can It Help You?

First Employment – Disability Second

Employment First - New JerseyIn April of 2012, Governor Chris Christie declared New Jersey an Employment First state. With this simple declaration, New Jersey became a part of a national movement 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.” (Via Departement of Labor) This urges local publicly-financed systems to adjust their programs and policies to promote integrated, competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities and special needs.

Phew. That was a lot of three-syllable-words.

In plain-speak though, what does it all mean? It means that New Jersey decided to make it a priority to get people with disabilities and special needs out and working in their communities. In response, the state went through a massive overhaul of how it reimburses services to service providers (like Easterseals). They set new program requirements and changed how much money went to providers depending on the service provided. However, that was five years ago. We want to walk you through what has changed and how you can take full advantage of this new system.

What Changed?

First and foremost, the expectation of what is possible for individuals with disabilities and special needs received a significant tune-up.

New Jersey’s Employment First Initiative identified the following expectation shifts as key to its success:

People with disabilities:

  • Can and should work
  • Will have to “opt out” of employment rather than (as was previously the case) “opt in”

These changes in philosophy will be reflected in all policies and resources related to employment of people with disabilities. Previously, employment services were reserved for only those arbitrarily identified as “able” to work. After this change, ALL people are presumed to be eligible, regardless of ability level. This opened up access to employment programs to anyone who had a disability and was looking for work.

In addition to these more public announcements, state representatives reached out directly to communicate these changes with relevant state agencies and service providers. They made sure that everyone knew that employment services should be expanded and would need to adhere to new requirements set by the state. Competitive community-based employment was defined as the primary goal for all program participants. All training and program support should be provided with that goal in mind.

So whether you are looking to get job ready or are ready to get a job, there are services here in New Jersey that can help make your next paycheck possible.

Where Do I Start?

This reinvigorated system can get confusing, so we gathered some resources to get you started:

We would be remiss if we did not first mention… ourselves! Easterseals New Jersey has a variety of programs to service multiple populations in New Jersey.

We serve:

Adults with disabilities and special needs through our Supported Employment and Prevocational Training programs.

Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing through our Northern Career Pathways Program.

Mature Workers (55+) through our Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP).

To see just one example of how we’re helping get people with disabilities to work, please watch the video below.

Additional resources include:

One-Stop Career Centers are provided through the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development and are a great first step on the path to employment. They are open to all job-seekers (not only those with disabilities) and are located in every New Jersey County.

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services is a program provided by the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development that connects individuals with a physical, mental, cognitive, or other forms of disability that are a substantial impediment to employment.

The Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a department within the NJ Department of Human Services and helps those who are blind or are visually impaired to obtain gainful employment.

The Division of Developmental Disabilities is also a department within the NJ Department of Human Services, provides public funding for services and supports that assist New Jersey adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities age 21 and older to obtain and maintain employment.

Still have questions? Feel free to give us a call at 855.215.4541

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