The Healey-Driscoll Administration today announced $900,000 in grants to fund nine organizations which provide job training, employment placement, and post-placement support for 275 young adults with disabilities for employment. The Administration also released the People with Disabilities Workforce Data Dashboard, which offers a comprehensive view of employment-related insights, encompassing disability type, geographic variations, remote work opportunities, unemployment rates, labor force participation, and more.

The grant awards and launch of the People with Disabilities Workforce Data Dashboard are aimed at fostering inclusivity and advancing economic opportunities for individuals with disabilities across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Secretary Lauren Jones of Labor and Workforce Development made the announcement at Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in Boston. JVS received $175,000 to provide training for 20 young adults with disabilities throughout Greater Boston to enter competitive employment with employer partners, including CVS Health, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, and the Sodexo-managed food service department at Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The grant will help expand JVS’ Transitions to Work program, an innovative program model connecting a higher number of young adults across the spectrum of disabilities to meaningful employment opportunities with real career pathways.

“It’s imperative that we recognize the diverse talents and contributions of individuals with disabilities,” said Governor Healey. “This dashboard not only sheds light on existing barriers but also highlights the immense potential of this segment of our workforce.”

“Inclusive workplaces are essential for fostering economic prosperity and social cohesion,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “The People with Disabilities Workforce Data Dashboard empowers us to identify and address barriers to employment, ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal access to opportunities and resources.”

The Employment Program for Young Adults with Disabilities, funded through the FY 2024 budget and administered by Commonwealth Corporation, is part of the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s strategic investment to attract and build diverse, skilled talent to meet the needs of Massachusetts employers across industries and statewide. Awardee initiatives are led by community-based organizations with demonstrated success and expertise in preparing young adults with disabilities for employment, job placement, and post-placement support focused on employment retention.

“Using data to better understand formidable barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in securing employment as well as providing targeted support and resources through the employment program for Young Adults with Disabilities Program has been a major focus for our Administration,” said Lauren Jones, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. “Through these initiatives, we are breaking down barriers and creating pathways to meaningful employment for individuals with disabilities across Massachusetts.”

“By partnering with Massachusetts employers dedicated to growing our diverse and skilled talent, this funding encourages inclusive employment,” said Molly Jacobson, President & CEO for Commonwealth Corporation. “This grant empowers a group of individuals, often overlooked, by creating pathways for success developed by so many community-based organizations.”

The dashboard, which also provides data pertaining to government services tailored to the disabled population within Massachusetts, is part of the Massachusetts Department of Economic Research’s workforce equity dashboard project, which aggregates Massachusetts-centric employment statistics across diverse demographic, racial, ethnic, and other identifiers. In addition to offering a snapshot of workforce outcomes among various demographic groups and illuminating persistent workforce disparities, these data sets underscore the substantial contributions and diverse talents and needs of Massachusetts’ communities. The dashboards also serve as a benchmark to gauge the Commonwealth’s progress in advancing equitable career pathways across all sectors of its economy.

The People with Disabilities dashboard was crafted with input from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, the Massachusetts Office of Disability, the Institute For Human Centered Design, Jewish Vocational Services, the Institute For Human Inclusion, and members of the Massachusetts Legislative Commission on the Status of Persons with Disabilities who all provided valuable insights into the employment landscape for individuals with disabilities.

For more information on the equity dashboards, visit the Department of Economic Research website.

The following is a list of the nine grant recipients, totaling $900,000 and serving 275 young adults:   

Community Work Services (CWS), Boston: $175,000

CWS will provide intensive skills-based vocational training programs for ~20 participants in areas including Food Arts, Environmental Services/Building and Grounds Maintenance, Commercial Production, Hospitality Services, and the recently developed Apex Clean Energy Institute (which includes alternative energy solar as well as electrical systems and solar technicians.)

Employment Options, Marlborough: $175,000

Employment Options will train and place 30 participants in food service jobs. Program partners include Nothing Bundt Cakes, NuPath, Quinsigamond Community College, and Work Without Limits/UMASS Medical School. Employment Options will provide participants the opportunity to obtain several certifications: SERV Safe Food Handlers, Massachusetts Allergen Awareness, Massachusetts Food Equipment and Safety Training (FEAST), and Quinsigamond Community College Fresh Start certificates.

Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), Boston: $175,000

The Transitions to Work program (TTW) at Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in Boston and now with an expansion into Greater Brockton will prepare 20 young adults with disabilities throughout Greater Boston to enter competitive employment with employer partners, including CVS Health, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, and the Sodexo-managed food service department at Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, Inc., Athol: $140,000

Polus Center will provide opportunities for 25 participants to gain customer service and job readiness skills followed by paid work experience in the grocery industry. Program partners include Price Chopper, Whole Foods, and Great Wolf Lodge. Participants will complete five weeks of “Retail Skills for Success” training followed by four weeks of On-the-Job-Training with one of the employer partners.

Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District, Fitchburg: $133,000

Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School (“Monty Tech”) will develop a 14-week, targeted training program, aimed at serving 15 young adults with disabilities (specifically those diagnosed with Autism and Down’s Syndrome) so that they are better prepared to enter the workforce with occupational skills that relate to occupations identified by Monty Tech’s employer partners. Monty Tech is home to 21 different vocational training programs.

Grow Associates, Inc., Randolph: $57,000

Grow In-House Hands-On ServSafe to Employment Program will engage ~30 young adults aged 22-35 with developmental or intellectual disabilities in its Community Based Day Support program and provide experiential job training and opportunities. Food service is the target industry, which encompasses a variety of jobs. Certification is key for an individual’s upward mobility and increased independence. Grow Associates is working with two partners, 7-Eleven and Brockton High School.

Northeast Arc, Inc., Danvers: $25,000

Northeast Arc will build on the success of its job placement efforts, particularly its Project Perk internship program, to prepare and place 5 young adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and/or autism in unsubsidized food service positions. This project will help address an unmet need for transportation assistance and paid training, certification, and internships.

Center of Hope Foundation, Southbridge: $10,000

The Employment Services program, based in Southbridge, provides valuable support services to businesses, agencies, and organizations and aims to help ~130 individuals with disabilities integrate into the workforce by aiding them to find, maintain, and excel in suitable jobs.

Corporation for Public Management, Springfield: $10,000

The Corporation for Public Management (CPM) in partnership with the New England Farm Workers’ Council (NEFWC), the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), and Mass2Miami Consultant Group aims to address the critical employment needs of young adults with disabilities in the Springfield area by focusing on childcare and food service occupational training for 20 participants. This project seeks to fill a crucial gap in existing workforce programs that lack intensive services tailored to the specific needs of this demographic.

Supportive Quotes  

“Investing in young adults with disabilities is an investment in the future of a thriving Massachusetts. Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission is always eager to collaborate with our state agencies and providers who partner in our mission of breaking down barriers for individuals with disabilities.” – Toni Wolf, Commissioner, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

“JVS and the Commonwealth Corporation are committed to investing in the future workforce of the Commonwealth. Removing barriers for young adults with disabilities opens up a new future both for the young adults and for the business community. With this investment, JVS and the other grantees will build and strengthen a pathway into competitive employment opportunities for individuals who want nothing more than the dignity and economic security of a job.” – Kira Khazatsky, President & CEO, JVS

“Community Work Services (CWS) extends heartfelt gratitude to Commonwealth Corporation for their invaluable support of the Young Adults with Disabilities Program. For 147 years, CWS has been steadfast in its mission to empower individuals in the Greater Boston area, breaking down barriers to financial well-being through comprehensive job training, placement, and support services. With Commonwealth Corporation’s generous backing, CWS is poised to equip these deserving individuals with the essential skills and resources needed to embark on meaningful career paths, enabling them to not only support themselves but also their families as they embrace new opportunities. We commend the Commonwealth Corporation for their unwavering commitment to championing these individuals, fostering inclusivity, and enhancing their quality of life. Moreover, we deeply appreciate their recognition of CWS’s long-standing legacy in providing specialized training to those facing employment barriers.” – Tanya Figelman,  Director of Programs and Services, Community Work Services