By Guest Blogger Nick Perry, Statewide Autism and Developmental Disabilities Services Coordinator, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
Spurred on by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) states are experiencing a renewed push to support individuals with disabilities in finding and maintaining integrated, competitive employment. While vocational rehabilitation agencies are tasked with serving those with the most significant disabilities, historically they have been unable to effectively achieve this goal. Regulations such as WIOA and the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ Home and Community-Based Settings Rules have given weight to movements like Employment First.
The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) understands that a cultural shift must take place within the state in order to make employment the first, or even a viable, option for individuals with disabilities. Having that understanding, GVRA applied for and was awarded $4.7 million by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) to improve employment opportunities for students and youth with disabilities. Georgia’s Career Pathways to Work: Explore, Engage and Employ (E3) is a partnership with Georgia Department of Education, Poses Family Foundation, Georgia State University Center for Leadership in Disability, Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, Parent to Parent of Georgia and Georgia Work Workforce Development. The grant seeks to target 3,000 students and youth aged 14-24 over five years who are currently in or out-of-school in seven school districts. The goals of the E3 program are to connect students and youth with disabilities to pathways that lead to careers, increase the number of customized career pathways that lead to employment for youth with disabilities, to increase the number of youth who achieve integrated employment, and to increase their earnings through successful completion of the program.
Students must be allowed to explore the world of employment and possible career goals, and for that to happen, we must meet them where they are. Most youth are in school. For that reason, in October 2014, GVRA Leadership elected to no longer require Local Education Agencies to fund Collaborative Agreements. Transition services by law are available to all students without requiring the schools to pay $13,000 for a dedicated VR Counselor. The E3 Social Media Technologist is responsible for the E3 App and Website being developed and implemented. The goal of the app and website is to engage students and youth with disabilities through technology and social media. This will give young people incentives and points for completing Career Exploration Assessments. These assessments will serve as a type of Self-Discovery, and help determine skills, abilities, passions, and interests in particular career clusters. Among a plethora of strategies, GVRA will also utilize a video series featuring youth, parents, teachers, service providers, employers, and GVRA staff highlighting the E3 program. Also during this “Exploration” phase, students will be introduced to the concept of soft skills and how they relate to employment.
Read More about E3: Georgia Career Pathways to Work