Over the course of the past five years, the Youth Employment Services (YES!) Center has provided high-impact technical assistance with Partnerships in Employment (PIE) state grantees funded by the Administration on Disabilities (AoD) to support systems-change efforts focused on improving competitive, integrated employment (CIE) outcomes for transition-aged youth and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The YES! Center has been a collaboration led by TASH and its technical assistance partner, Transcen.
As a result of this project, we’ve increased the body of knowledge and identified new promising practices to further inform systems-change efforts aimed at successfully transitioning youth and young adults with I/DD from school to employment. Over the past year, we have intentionally expanded our national dissemination efforts by creating a national Community of Practice, hosting monthly webinars and posting numerous blogs, podcasts and success stories. All of this content and corresponding material can be found at www.yestoemployment.org. This website will remain live though the end of 2021; the resources found there will then be transitioned to the Disability Employment Technical Assistance (DETAC) website at: www.aoddisabilityemploymenttacenter.com.
This final YES! Center annual meeting was held on August 17-18, 2021, and showcased the work of PIE partners from the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Utah. While each state team shared their own unique experiences, challenges and perspectives, they also illustrated some common themes: the importance of engagement of key stakeholders, especially families, employers and state agencies; and the value of collaboration, especially among state agencies and advocacy organizations.
On behalf of our two organizations, we would like to take this opportunity to thank our federal partners at the Administration on Disabilities within the Administration for Community Living (ACL) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who in addition to providing funding for the Center, have offered guidance, feedback and tremendous dedication to our mutual aims throughout the course of the project. We are grateful for the rewarding collaboration we have enjoyed with AoD, as well as other strategic partners and the PIE grantees over the past five years.
While the YES! Center project formally concludes, the work will surely continue. It was especially heartening to witness the strong commitment of our PIE partners to continue their systems-change efforts and ensure sustainability and scalability. To this end, our evaluation partners from the Lewin Group will soon be issuing a comprehensive evaluation report that focuses on policy collaboration, removing systems barriers, cross agency collaboration and scaling up promising practices.
PIE partners noted that, as a result of the YES! Center, they have a better understanding of what is standing in the way of successful transitions to employment; a stronger commitment to focusing more intently on underserved communities; and a wealth of strategies to share with service providers to incorporate an emphasis on individualized employment and career planning in their support of youth and young adults with I/DD.
Thank you again to all the partners of the YES! Center for a dynamic and productive project and for your ongoing commitment, which we share, to continue the work as we strive for competitive integrated employment outcomes for all people with disabilities.