2022 National APSE Board Election Winner: Jaimie Laitinen, Washington
2022 National APSE Board of Directors Northwest and Pacific Regional Delegate Winner!
Jaimie Laitinen, Washington
The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:
Service Provider or Manager; Technical Assistance and Training
Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in promoting competitive integrated employment in your state. Additionally, explain why you are passionate about competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities (no more than 500 words):
I have worked in the field of supported employment since 2004. I have provided direct service as a job coach as well as worked on numerous events and projects to help the various systems and stakeholders work toward the goal of competitive integrated employment. I am currently approaching 15 years at Wise, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting equitable employment for people with disabilities. I have spent many years working toward this effort providing support and technical assistance to schools in transition services, Person Centered Planning, event planning, and project management of a variety of innovative projects related to Recruitment, Training, and Retention of people who work in this industry. I was a founding board member of our Washington State Chapter and served as Vice President, President, a Regional Delegate (prior to the Delegates Council joining National Board) and served on many National APSE Conference committees including the Students for APSE, Hospitality, Employer Leadership Forums, and National Conference Presentation Proposals. I have attended 9 National Conferences and have served on the steering committee for 5 APSE Regional Conferences as well as many local Chapter events.
My passion around this work stems from the belief that everyone can contribute something to their community and everyone deserves a chance to be in charge of their own life, making their own decisions and choosing the supports that work for them. I have spent a lot of my career working with schools, families, and individuals with disabilities to try and help them see what is possible and how to navigate the available resources out there to accomplish their goals. I know firsthand how employment can change lives and create relationships and give each person a sense of self-worth. I want to continue to support this mission in a way that allows me to continue to be part of the community of people who are committed to this work.
What relevance does/should APSE and its chapters/members have in national and state conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion (no more than 350 words)?
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are immensely important to people, and APSE members whether in leadership or at the local level should be prioritizing these conversations on a regular basis. I believe that disability is part of the conversation of Diversity Equity and Inclusion and I also believe there is an increasingly apparent need for more racial and ethnic diversity in the APSE community as well as in providers of employment services and in the community of people accessing services. In my work at Wise, I have been working to build opportunities for people to have access to more education and training in this area and believe that a focus on conversations about DEI is always going to be beneficial in creating inclusive communities as we as a larger APSE community build our network and try to get more people to join what we are doing.
One of my greatest passions in this field is bringing new people into it, finding out what keeps people sustained and energized to continue, and how to build and foster healthy and dynamic performing teams. I have worked on this effort on the local as well as national level and I think the issues in the DEI conversations are becoming increasingly relevant and sought after by those who are trying to meet the needs of their communities in providing employment services.
What skills, knowledge or lived experience do you have that will contribute to strengthening and growing the financial health of APSE and promoting its mission to advance employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities (no more than 350 words)?
My skills and knowledge come from working in the employment services industry for more than 15 years in a state which has committed to prioritizing and supporting individuals having the right to choose employment as their primary service. The education and training I have received has strengthened my commitment and belief that everyone can work, and all means all. I have had the opportunity to build relationships across the country and beyond through my APSE involvement as well as through my work at Wise and have been fortunate to get to know and learn from leaders in our field who I find to be mentors and legacy leaders who have had an immeasurable impact on employment service delivery in the United States.
My experience as a Chapter Vice President, President, Regional Delegate, and Board Member at Large has given me the opportunity to organize communities, gather support, and collaborate with other non-profit employment champions as well as with government organizations at the state, county, and local level. It also taught me a lot about managing a budget and following the bylaws and schedule it takes to maintain an APSE Chapter. I enjoy the variety, creativity, and collaboration that comes with serving on a board and being part of an effort to contribute to a mission beyond just a day-to-day job.
In my current role at Wise, I am a member of our leadership team and manage 3 county government contracts and 6 people who are working on my team. I am constantly managing and tracking budgets and staffing large and small projects in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders.
In past work at Wise and with APSE, I have been in charge of a lot of events and conferences and have worked on many different kinds of committees in support of these events. My work in event planning has included budget management, staffing, volunteer coordination, hotel and hospitality coordination, presentation proposals, logistics, clock hours, and everything in between for events ranging from 30 people to 1000+ people.
I am currently serving on the National APSE Professional Development Committee and have enjoyed getting to know the members as well as working with a small team to coordinate the monthly Pre-Ets Collaboration call.
I am a Person Centered Planning Facilitator and have also facilitated strategic plans, Maps and Paths plans, and have completed the Highline Employment Certification Course as well as the CESP exam.
Discuss how you will represent the needs of the chapters in your region and work to strengthen APSE’s chapter structure (no more than 350 words).
My past experience as an APSE Chapter President as well as a Regional Delegate have prepared me for this. My personality as an outgoing, natural collaborator and community connector give me the kind of tools needed to build the kind of rapport and relationships required when connecting and working with leaders of chapters in other states.
When I was the Regional Delegate in the past it was very rewarding to be part of the Council just to compare notes and share ideas. I loved taking ideas from the Council back to my region and finding ways to collaborate with states in my region such as the Pacific Northwest Employment Forum which started during my time as a Regional Delegate and continues today.
While in those days it was a challenge to get Chapter Presidents to make time for updates and check ins, it is a challenge that I welcome today and I am excited to learn from the current council what strategies are working well for this in the current virtual climate we are in. I am energized at the opportunity to use what I have learned in virtual meeting facilitation, innovative project coordination, and event planning to connect and share ideas throughout my region. My decision to resign from the Washington APSE Chapter Board was rooted in the goal to become more involved with the National APSE Board and Team and I am ready to commit to this with all of my energy and experience to support the council. Thank you for considering me for this opportunity!
Jaimie Laitinen is an enthusiastic member of APSE and has been involved with the organization since 2010 when she attended her first National Conference and met people from all over the country who were passionate about employment for all. The relationships, connection, and collaboration that have been built with members of the APSE community ever since that first conference has been an inspiration and a reminder of how important it is to feel connected to the vision and values of the work we do together and to have fun in the process. Since that first conference, Jaimie has served as a founding board member on the Washington APSE Chapter as a Vice President, President, at-Large member, as well as a Regional Delegate. She has also served on numerous National APSE Conference Committees and is currently serving on the Professional Development Committee.
Jaimie has spent the past 15 years working for Wise, a nonprofit organization based in Washington State providing technical assistance and training to promote employment for all people with disabilities. During her time at Wise, she has enjoyed a wide range of roles and experiences in working toward getting people with disabilities into the workforce. In her current role at Wise, she specializes in contract and project management, working with employment service providers, schools, and other agency partners in supporting individuals and their families in their journey to find the right job. She is also a trainer in the Wise Online Academy ACRE Series and has presented at national and local conferences on School to Work and Transition, Person Centered Planning, Organizational Culture, and Development, as well as strategies on recruitment, training, and retention of staff in this industry.
Her passion for this field is nurtured by being part of a determined community that shares the belief that each person has value to contribute and that everyone can work.