Our Top Takeaways From the 2022 National APSE Conference

The SETWorks team shares their favorite insights from this year's National APSE conference in Denver, CO.

setworks at the 2022 national apse conference
SETWorks team members Kirstie MacArthur and Anna Spexarth

From June 13 to 15, our team had the opportunity to sponsor and participate in the 2022 National Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) Conference 


For anyone focused on creating inclusive workplaces — including individuals with disabilities, businesses, and provider agencies — the conference was a chance to learn, network, and reinvigorate their commitment to Employment First.  


The three-day event was jam-packed with employment-focused workshops and breakout sessions. There was also an award ceremony to highlight individuals and organizations making a difference in employment inclusion.  


If you weren’t able to attend, there’s a lot to catch up on. It’s impossible to list everything we learned in one article, but here are five of our team’s top takeaways from the conference: 

1. Over 600 people traveled to Denver to attend the National APSE Conference, and hundreds more tuned in virtually.

In fact, demand for the in-person event was so high that it sold out! Fortunately, there was also an option to register for the Virtual Pass and livestream keynotes and a sampling of sessions from the conference.


We were lucky enough to attend the event live and see firsthand just how many people from across the U.S. came to the event, and were ready and open to learn. Everyone we met was so thoughtful and passionate about the work that they do and how it impacts their clients — and learning how to serve them better at events like these impacts their future. 

2. We can accomplish more together than we can alone.

This year’s conference theme was “Moving Mountains Together”, which was appropriate considering the event was held in the Mile-High City. For our team, the conference reinforced the importance of our relationships with all our partners. Collaborating with provider agencies and companies across the U.S. enables us to work toward a common goal of moving employment for people with disabilities forward. We can all accomplish so much more by working together, whether we are in a shared office or dispersed around the country.  


>>> Related: Listen to this podcast to learn why we supported the National APSE conference this year and how we collaborate with employment providers and businesses across the country.  

3. We had lots of conversations about being data-driven.

If you know us, then you know we love talking about data and we’re always up for karaoke. Lucky for us, National APSE had both! We had a lot of great conversations with providers on the importance of having good data and being data-driven at all levels of the organization. This is so important if you want to accomplish more internally, align staff with the mission and goals of your organization, and meet the growing demands put on provider agencies. It’s also something many agencies across the country say they are struggling with, especially as other issues like attracting and retaining staff compete for their attention.  

4. Staffing continues to be one of the largest issues that disability service organizations are facing.

Providers across the country are struggling with staffing shortages in the wake of the pandemic, but some are finding creative solutions to fill the demand. At National APSE, we saw several organizations that specialize in education and training for high school students and recent grads to help reinvigorate the workforce. We also heard from organizations that are approaching staffing creatively and using research funds to make an impact. In addition, we heard how having a management system like SETWorks, that alleviates administrative burden, has made a difference in turnover and staffing issues.

5. There's a purposeful shift in how disabilities are perceived and talked about.

Namely, businesses and organizations are positioning disability representation and inclusion as a priority and not an afterthought. This is due in no small part to the relentless advocacy and education through organizations like APSE and its members. The sessions we attended all gave options for how people could get involved, from simple things like a shift in the way we talk about disabilities, all the way through providing phone numbers for legislators to call and invitations to rallies and public demonstrations. 


There was also a lot of discussion around the need to bring more self-advocates to the table. In particular, the analogy of a circular table versus a rectangular table was a helpful way of thinking about inclusion. 

Keep learning

If you missed the conference, there are still plenty of opportunities for learning. APSE is holding Post-Conference Virtual Workshops on August 1-5, 2022 focused on various Employment First topics. Registration for these 3-hour sessions will open soon. In the meantime, you can also check out our list of 30+ disability service conferences to attend in 2022.  

Free Resource: 30+ Disability Service Conferences For 2022
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