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Frequently Asked Questions

 

The National Technical Assistance and Research Center to Promote Leadership for Increasing Employment and Economic Independence of Adults with Disabilities (NTAR Leadership Center) is a collaboration of partners with expertise in workforce development, disability employment, economic development, financial education, benefits planning, and leadership development. The Center was established in September 2007 through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

The NTAR Leadership Center is currently housed at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Key program partners have included the Center for Workers with Disabilities at the American Public Human Services Association, the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, the Alliance for Full Participation, and others.

The NTAR Leadership Center is under the direction of Kathy Krepcio, the Executive Director of the Heldrich Center, who works in close cooperation with ODEP.

The NTAR Leadership Center is also guided by national experts serving on advisory panels for technical assistance and for research. The Technical Assistance Advisory Panel is co-chaired by Megan Juring, Assistant Secretary, California Health and Human Services Agency and Mary Alice Mowry, Director, Pathways to Employment, Minnesota Department of Human Services. The Research Advisory Panel is co-chaired by Dr. Carl Van Horn, Professor and Director, John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, and Dr. Doug Kruse, Professor, Department of Economics and the School of Management and Labor Relations, at Rutgers University.

The Center’s mission is to build capacity and leadership at the federal, state, and local levels to enable change across workforce development and disability-specific systems that will increase employment and economic self-sufficiency for adults with disabilities.

The Center’s mission and initiatives are grounded in five principles drawn from six years of ODEP research and form the basis for the Center’s technical assistance and training activities:

1. Effective leadership, collaboration, and partnerships are the foundation for system change efforts and are at the heart of every best practice.
2. Cross-agency and cross-system collaboration results in opportunities for leveraging expertise and resources — especially important to serving job seekers with complex barriers to employment, both those with and without disabilities. This “blending and braiding” of resources enables service providers to respond to the unique strengths and needs of individual job seekers.
3. To the extent possible, the principle of universal design should apply not just to removing physical barriers but also to practices, services, and programs of the workforce development system and other environments, including the workplace, resulting in improved efficiency and better customer service.
4. Tax incentives, financial literacy efforts, benefits planning, and other incentives encouraging work can increase the prospects for employment success for people with disabilities, as well as improve their longer-term economic outcomes.
5. Customized employment strategies and flexibility in the workplace can enhance employment opportunities and job success for people with and without disabilities. Using customized employment strategies to individualize the employment relationship between the job seeker and the employer can meet the needs of both, and can greatly improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Within its five targeted goal areas, the NTAR Leadership Center’s work emphasizes two distinct program areas in addition to its ongoing communication/dissemination and project management activities. The two current areas of focus are:

1. Disability implications of an aging workforce
Developing an action plan to increase job opportunities for older workers with disabilities by documenting promising employer practices, identifying federal policies that promote or discourage more work options for mature workers, and recommending areas for additional research.

2. Universal design and access for people with disabilities in the public workforce system
Providing intensive technical assistance to four states that will redesign their existing employment services and facilities to address the diverse needs of all business customers and job seekers, not just individuals with disabilities.

The State Leadership Innovation Institute (2008-2010) was a special leadership training program for three model states whose ongoing efforts to promote employment of adults with disabilities helped guide other states seeking to do the same. The three SLII states — Minnesota, Maryland, and Connecticut — were competitively selected from high-level teams nominated by governors nationwide. Beginning in 2008, the three states participated in activities that gave their teams access to nationally respected experts providing intensive, customized technical assistance, and leadership training. The NTAR Leadership Center sought to help these states become national models for promoting employment for adults with disabilities as part of state workforce development and economic growth strategies.

The State Peer Learning Network was a facilitated information exchange, continuous learning, and the sharing of promising disability employment strategies for a select group of motivated state policymakers interested in putting these practices to work. Technical assistance as well as access to topical teleconferences, webinars, and virtual seminars have been made available through the NTAR Leadership Center. Participants in the SPLN during 2008-2011 were Alaska, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

For general information about the NTAR Leadership Center, contact Maria Heidkamp at heidkamp@rutgers.edu.