(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt has been named to the new Kentucky Work Matters Task Force.

Gov. Matt Bevin announced the creation of the task force at a press conference June 13.

The new 23-member task force will bring together every department of state government that has a hand in workforce development with members of the private sector. Their mission is to address barriers to employment and promote workforce inclusion among people with disabilities, foster children, disabled veterans, and individuals burdened by substance abuse or criminal records.

“There is dignity that comes from work, and there is a sense of satisfaction and respect – for oneself and for others – that comes from being an engaged part of the community,” Bevin said. “And there’s nothing more integral than the dignity associated with being part of the fabric of that community through work.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Sheehy of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy commended Kentucky, which is the first state in the nation to initiate such a task force.

“We realize that the real change and the real work does not happen at the federal level,” said Sheehy. “We need to look at what federal policies do work, but also what is happening in states that works – and then support that.”

Kentucky’s labor participation rate currently is at 54.7 percent, well below the national average of 62.9 percent. In addition, 15.7 percent of the Commonwealth’s population is classified as “disabled,” compared to only 10.4 percent nationally.

Also named to the task force were:

  • Adam Meier, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Bevin
  • Secretary Scott Brinkman, Executive Cabinet
  • Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, Cabinet for Health and Family Services
  • Secretary John Tilley, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
  • Secretary Derrick Ramsey, Labor Cabinet
  • Secretary Hal Heiner, Education and Workforce Development
  • Secretary Tom Stephens, Personnel Cabinet
  • Secretary Greg Thomas, Transportation Cabinet
  • Vivek Sarin, Cabinet for Economic Development executive officer
  • Deputy Commissioner Bryan Hubbard, Division of Income Support
  • Buddy Hoskinson, Department for Aging and Independent Living
  • Commissioner Beth Kuhn, Department of Workforce Investment
  • President Bob King, Council on Postsecondary Education
  • Senator John Schickel
  • Senator Robin Webb
  • Representative Jim DeCesare
  • Representative Arnold Simpson
  • Katie Shepherd, Kentucky Supreme Court designee
  • Mike Michalak, citizen at-large (Shelbyville)
  • Katie Wolf Whaley, citizen at-large (Lexington)
  • Beth Davisson, citizen at-large (Louisville)
  • Tim McGurk, citizen at-large (Prospect)

The group will present a final report that will include policy recommendations on improving workforce participation rates for individuals with disabilities, as well as other populations with impediments to employment, across the Commonwealth.