Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies Embracing Job Development Role


Vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies help people with disabilities to find good jobs. When these agencies were first created, their staff were expected to handle every aspect of this process. However, over time, job development—working closely with job seekers and employers to create strong job matches—began to fall off their menu of services.

Now the pendulum is swinging back, and job development is an essential skill for VR staff to master.

Job development fell off the VR menu for several reasons. It was too expensive, or there was little or no time to create an effective job development strategy. VR counselors proved effective at providing services, counseling, and developing successful plans, but had little time to build relationships with employers.

This spawned the development of Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRPs), agencies or individuals approved to provide employment support to individuals with disabilities. VR agencies began contracting with private nonprofit CRPs, and spent significant amounts of money on this third party.

CRPs often took over the roles of vocational evaluation, job placement, and readiness skills training, in addition to contacting employers and setting up interviews. The thinking was that CRPs had the hand-to-hand job development skills necessary to place people in jobs, using VR supports.

In the last few years, this has begun to change. “What is happening is that as the VR agencies are getting more engaged in business, they’re getting their own job developer,” says Neil McNeil, a program manager with the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “Now…the VR counselor has a choice—refer to an in-house job developer, or a CRP. These two options are emerging in many states.”

McNeil notes that this trend is occurring mostly due to the rise of the “dual-customer” approach. This approach means that employment specialists serve not just one set of clients (job seekers), but another as well (employers).

VR agencies are now more focused on businesses. It is much more efficient to train their specialists to both prepare the person they support for work, and to thoroughly understand the employers who might hire that person. Thus, handing someone off to a CRP has become a much less efficient route to successful job development.

As the VR field evolves, employment specialists will be called upon to have deeper knowledge of their chosen profession. The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services (CES) curriculum is a thorough tool to help VR counselors develop a more holistic sense of the job development field, from evaluation to counseling to placement.

Check out the CES courses Strategies for Job Development and Business Perspectives to learn more about serving both job seekers and employers.

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