The Pennsylvania House yesterday took a major step forward to help young people with disabilities get the part-time and summer jobs they need to prepare for life when they finish school.
The vote is a significant victory for the #IWantToWork campaign, a social media and advocacy effort led and managed by young people with disabilities. #IWantToWork is part of the Campaign for What Works.
The unanimous House vote approves legislation enabling the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to begin helping high school students with disabilities get summer and part-time jobs much earlier than it currently does. The legislation will set in place new processes and enable the Commonwealth to seek needed federal matching funds to support helping these students.
“Most of these young people now don’t get job counseling and placement assistance until their final months in high school. They aren't ready to work, and a result, many do not go to work at all. This legislation will help move young people from their couches to work,” said Dr. Josie Badger, manager of the #IWantToWork campaign.
HB 400, was authored by Rep. Mauree Gingerich, R-Lebanon, chair of the House Labor and Industry Committee, and co-sponsored by dozens of members, including House Democratic L&I Chair Mark Gergely, D-Allegheny. Similar legislation, SB 200, authored by Sen. Lisa Baker, chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, has been introduced in the Senate. The legislation has the support of major business and labor organizations across Pennsylvania.
HB 400 will enable the Commonwealth to acquire up to $18 million in federal matching funds for OVR to assist young people with disabilities to obtain part-time and summer jobs earlier in high school. This will prepare them for work when they finish school. Currently, most youth with disabilities do not receive job counseling and placement assistance until their final months in high school, placing them at a significant disadvantage in the job marketplace.
“This will be a big change in Pennsylvania’s approach to helping young people prepare for work after high school,” said Robert Nelkin, President of the United Way of Allegheny County, one of the founding partners of the Campaign for What Works. He also stated, “Young people with disabilities want to work. Employers know that young people with disabilities are loyal, dependable, and productive. This bill makes helping young people with disabilities get job experience a priority.”
The #IWantToWork social media campaign has raised awareness of the need to help young people with disabilities through a selfie campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More than 100 Pennsylvania legislators have had their selfies taken with the young people with disabilities around Pennsylvania.
Click here to visit the #IWantToWork website for social media links, selfie posters, and campaign news.