With the recent enactment of the Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act (WIOA), the role of the federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) system in helping youth with disabilities transition to employment is receiving heightened attention. New ways of dedicating resources to transitioning youth will be mandated by WIOA. How can the VR system most effectively meet the needs of youth with disabilities who are preparing for transition to employment? What can VR counselors do to make the most effective use of VR resources in this endeavor? The RRTC for VR Practices for Youth is conducting a series of studies to examine these questions. In this issue of the RRTC newsletter we introduce one of these studies.
Featured Study: 
The Missing Link: Exploring the Transition Practices of Highly Effective Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors


Ellen Fabian, Debra Neubert, Richard Luecking - University of Maryland
Anthony  Plotter - Consultant

Study Purpose: 

Among the most critical and overlooked approaches to improving vocational rehabilitation (VR) outcomes for transitioning youth is improving the skills and strategies of the VR counselors delivering services.  VR counselors can perform a critical role in delivering high quality transition services to youth with disabilities both during and after their exit from secondary school. Although studies have highlighted the important role VR counselors play in the transition process, the field lacks a comprehensive description of the transition-related skills and practices implemented by highly effective VR counselors.  Specifically, the purposes of this study are to:

  1. Identify the transition-related skills and practices of the most effective Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors
  2. Compile and disseminate a toolkit of these transition-related skills and practices in order to improve VR counselor services to transitioning youth

Study Overview: 

Researchers will use the findings from the first study conducted under the auspices of the RRTC, which will provide a national description of the association between individual consumer and agency level factors and employment outcomes,  to identify state VR counselors who are employed in State vocational rehabilitation agencies (SVRAs) that rank among the top 25% of the 51 state agencies in achieving successful youth outcomes.   Working with state agency directors and the Council of State Administrators of vocational rehabilitation (CSAVR), researchers will invite each of the VR counselors in these agencies to complete an on-line survey to identify caseload strategies and counselor skills and practices contributing to their success in achieving employment outcomes for transitioning youth.  We will then combine these responses with the agency-level transition-related policies and procedures derived from the earlier RRTC study to describe a set of policies, procedures, caseload factors, and VR counselor strategies associated with youth success in vocational rehabilitation.
The second aspect of this study is to conduct semi-structured interviews with a smaller sample of highly effective VR counselors in order to delve into the counseling, outreach, case management and other skill sets, strategies, and practices associated with successful outcomes. Researchers are interested in determining the "what," and "how" of VR counselors' effective practices and will address many issues, including:  (1) How do they manage their caseloads to implement strategies to engage transitioning youth? (2) How do they develop effective working relationships with youth, families, employers, and related personnel? (3) What programmatic or procedural barriers hamper their efforts, and what have they done to address them? (4) How do they facilitate collaboration and outreach?  (5) How do they know if their practices are effective across youth populations? 


Study Research Questions: 

RQ1. What are the caseload and agency characteristics of highly effective VR counselors employed in high-performing State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs)?
RQ2. What do effective VR counselors identify as the most important skills and practices for achieving success among transition-age?

Study Impact: 

The field lacks a comprehensive description of transition-related skills and practices implemented by highly effective VR counselors within the context of their agency policies and procedures.  This study will help identify those effective skills and practices which can assist higher education and SVRAs in training, hiring and supporting VR counselors' professional development.  The identification of effective VR practices can also help inform VR policies and procedures that promotes youth becoming successfully employed..

Upcoming Issue: 

Study highlight: The role and impact of vocational rehabilitation in inclusive higher education for youth with intellectual disability and autism

Funded by Department of Education - PR/Award #H133A100007 CFDA #84-133B

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