What is Employment First?

Your Life. Your Goals. Real Work. Real Pay.

Employment First is an unwavering belief that all people have valuable contributions to offer the workforce, regardless of the type or significance of disability, and have the right to pursue their employment goals.

Employment First is also an effort taken on by states to change systems and shift culture to create a reality of meaningful work for all people with disabilities, including people with significant and complex disabilities. In an Employment First state, the opportunity to work for competitive wages needs to be provided as the first and  primary option by taxpayer-funded program staff.

Pillars of Employment First


Competitive Integrated Employment

People with disabilities earn fair wages, experience full inclusion in the workplace, and have the opportunity to advance their career, just like everyone else.


Individualized Supported Employment

Employment Services are personalized to each career seeker with the goal of finding a job match that aligns with their strengths, interests, and preferences.


Person-Centered Planning

Person-centered career planning ensures each career seeker has agency in their pathway to employment. Self-determination and advocacy are vital as each person directs their employment journey.

The Foundation of Employment First is Competitive Integrated Employment

We believe Colorado’s communities are strengthened when
all people are able to participate fully in the workforce.

JFK Partner Logo

The Colorado Office of Employment First sits under JFK Partners, the state’s University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, a program of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Its creation was envisioned by Colorado Employment First Advisory Partnership (EFAP), a multi-state agency and stakeholder-led collaborative, and was made possible, in part, by funding from the Colorado Legislature and generously matched through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).

© 2023 Colorado Office of Employment First. All Rights Reserved.

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