Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Common Challenges and Opportunities for Collaboration

I am a member of the Connecticut Team, one of three states selected to receive a grant from the NTAR Leadership Center to participate in a 15-month State Leaders Innovation Institute (SLII). One of our team goals is to have the state of Connecticut become a model employer for people with disabilities. In my professional life I am employed as a Human Resources Consultant in the Department of Administrative Services which houses the statewide human resources management division. Some of the functions my division is responsible for include: setting human resources policies for the state, developing job descriptions, administering merit examinations, conducting collective bargaining grievances, and providing consultation to all state agencies on the entire spectrum of human resources matters from employment to termination and everything in between. As a person who has done a lot of work with employees who have disabilities throughout my career this is the goal I am most committed to.

Thanks to the NTAR Leadership Center, I recently had the opportunity to attend The Governor’s Forum on Disability and Economic Development in Roanoke, VA. I was very excited about attending because I was looking forward to seeing what success Virginia had in closing the employment gap for persons with disabilities and I was hoping to get a few ideas that maybe we could adopt in Connecticut. (The later being very important to me as I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel!)

Virginia has high hopes and incredibly motivated leadership, but advancing employment goals in this economy is challenging at best. Virginia is approaching this issue in a similar fashion to Connecticut and faces many of the same challenges. I learned at the conference that while Virginia has great resources available for people with disabilities, it is difficult to get the word out about these resources. It struck me that someone - who was involved in the disability employment field and was attending this conference - was not aware of all of the resources available. This is one of the many challenges that states face; we not only need to make resources available, we need to get these resources to those who need them, especially during these tough economic times.

So while I didn’t learn new strategies to approach the issue of employment, I did get something I consider ever better… networking contacts. I met and talked extensively with my HR counterpart in state government, I networked with many people from other agencies that provide services to or work with peoples with disabilities such as the department of Rehabilitative services, the workforce development board, department for the Blind and Vision impaired, Virginia Tech University and Northrop Grumman Corporation. These contacts I consider to be invaluable, especially since I’ve already been able to tap into the expertise of at least one of them. I also left with the feeling that as an employer the state of Connecticut is doing much better that I thought we were.

My sincere appreciation and gratitude to the NTAR Leadership Center for providing me with this wonderful opportunity.

Francine E. Dew

Human Resources Consultant, State of Connecticut

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