During mid June, the Department of Education proposed priority to establish a Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center (JDVRTAC). The center will provide training and technical assistance to improve outcomes at State VR agencies and ensure that individuals with disabilities learn the necessary skills and competencies to secure competitive employment.

In early 2014 President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to the secretaries of department of labor, commerce and education directing them to take action on providing american workers with more job-driven training. The Secretaries were ordered to create concrete steps to make Federal workforce and training program and policy that focused on the following: training relevant skills with job market value, more easily accessible by employers and job seekers and to be more accountable for producing positive employment and earnings outcomes for the individuals they serve.

With the mandate, education and training was a focus for all workers, including those with disabilities who also need access to training for competitive jobs with good wages and benefits. Individuals with disabilities have a higher unemployment rate than those without disabilities. In addition to this statistic, over the last 4 years, VR agencies have seen a significant drop in the number of individuals with disabilities gaining employment in competitive jobs.

Along with the presidential initiative to improve the outlook for employment for individuals with disabilities,  three other factors influenced the drive to create JDVRTAC. The President’s administration gave a strong commitment to hire individuals for federal jobs, to support needs that provide a competitive job and stable workplace for individuals with disabilities. The third factor was focusing on increasing vocational rehabilitation agencies performance in getting individuals competitive jobs in today’s economy. The final factor influencing the prioirty is the effort to develop and continue learning skills for VR counselors to provide support and training to VR consumers.

With the job-driven priority, VR agencies can focus on implementing approaches that promote more active engagement between employers and individuals with disabilities in the workplace. In order to increase the number of positive competitive employment outcomes, VR agencies will focus on developing VR counselor skills to build a proper support system for job seekers.

The Rehabilitation Services Association (RSA) notes a few new methods related to job-driven principles that could help State VR agencies increase the number of competitively employed, many of which are already participating in the principles. One of which is utilizing outside partnerships with employer engagement, by running employer account systems and participating in the CSAVR employment Network (the NET). Creating relationships with business networks, employees that face challenges reentering the workforce can break down initial barriers to employment.

Another noted practice is to create customized training for VR consumers. VR agencies can partner with programs that are aimed at preparing individuals with specific industry needs. Often times training programs are already paid for by the partner organizations which will help reduce the cost of training for job seekers and VR agencies. The plans decided by the RSA are to establish the JDVRTAC to improve the skills of personnel, to provide the best VR services and support to individuals with disabilities, employers and providers of job-driven skills training.

This priority will work towards getting more individuals with disabilities into competitive jobs to ensure independence in living situations, finances and lifelong skills. With any new updates on the priority of the Job-driven center, we will update the article.