Workforce Development Supports for Individuals with Disabilities in the State of New Jersey: An Overview of Best Practices

Jordan Gallagher, Chioma Nwankwo, Drew McClendon, James Kelly, Hyojeong Kim & Mathilde Roux

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In January 2020 Governor Murphy announced his Jobs NJ plan as part of the administration’s strategy to foster a stronger and fairer economy for all New Jerseyans. Part of this plan includes a particular focus on populations that face significant barriers to employment, such as individuals with disabilities.i The Governor’s Office asked a team of graduate students from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University to prepare a report examining promising practices in workforce development for people with disabilities. This report provides an overview of best practices from around the country and examples of specific programs and initiatives to better inform New Jersey’s strategies for improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities in the State.

Individuals with disabilities are underrepresented in the workplace. As of 2018, only 40% of prime working-age adults (25-54) with disabilities were employed in the United States, compared to 79% of all prime-age adults. The consequences of this disparity in employment include dependence on public benefits programs and a higher rate of poverty. In New Jersey, the poverty rate among working-age people with disabilities was 17.20% in 2018, which was nearly double the rate among working-age people with no disabilities (8.7%). People with disabilities bring valuable skills and a unique perspective to the workplace. Given Governor Murphy’s goal to build a stronger and fairer economy for all residents of New Jersey, it is important that State policies and programs consider people with disabilities and increase opportunities for their employment as part of the State’s workforce development strategy.