Staff and Partners
DVR believes in collaborating with other service providers to reach people facing the greatest challenges to employment. As a result, DVR has created innovative partnerships to serve youth, offenders, veterans, people receiving public benefits, individuals with substance use disorders, and those who need ongoing support in order to work.
Recent Developments and Accomplishments
The Summer Career Exploration Program (SCEP): In 2021 DVR launched the Summer Career Exploration Program (SCEP). The SCEP was designed to provide high school students with disabilities paid summer work experiences combined with a career exploration curriculum. This is the first time DVR has implemented a summer employment program for students and planning had to start before COVID vaccines were available so it wasn't clear whether we would be able to conduct it in person. But engagement with work-based learning over the summer was a high priority after the disruptions of the pandemic year. Despite the challenges, district DVR teams created amazing opportunities for youth, while engaging employers who were facing their own challenges amid the pandemic. DVR saw a need and committed to creating what became an outstanding experience for all involved. The following is a brief summary of the outcomes:
SCEP provided 144 students with a paid work experience with a local employer.
SCEP engaged 110 employers in providing work experiences for students.
SCEP included all students with disabilities, regardless of the level of support required for them to be successful.
DVR has already begun planning a SCEP for 2022. DVR will use lessons learned in the first year to enhance and improve the experience for future participants.
Kessler Foundation Grant/WorkVT2.0: DVR was selected by the Kessler Foundation to receive a grant designed to improve employment prospects for DVR consumers who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI and SSDI). Vermont was one of only 6 projects to be selected out of over 70 applications. The project provides an innovative combination of services and financial incentives to help beneficiaries obtain income sufficient enough to end their benefits. The project has two sites, one in Burlington and one in Rutland.
DVR named the project WorkVT2.0 and began recruitment in March 2021 after a one-year delay due to COVID. As of September 30, 2021, over 50 beneficiaries have signed up to receive WorkVT2.0 services. The project is already showing some early successes with four participants working full time and no longer receiving SSI/SSDI benefits. Another sixteen participants have started working part time with the goal of increasing their hours and income over time.
DVR is making a major effort to support consumer participation in post-secondary training leading to industry-recognized credentials in high demand fields. This is the most effective and efficient route to consumers achieving high quality and high wage employment. It is also aligns with employers’ needs for skilled workers. The following are major initiatives we are embarking on in 2022 to support this effort.
The Vermont Career Advancement Project (VCAP): DVR was awarded a $6.5 million grant from the US Department of Education to support the Vermont Career Advancement Project (VCAP). VCAP will establish a robust partnership between DVR, the Vermont Department of Labor (VDOL), the Community College of Vermont (CCV), Vermont Technical College (VTC), and secondary Career and Technical Education Centers (CTEs), to build on-ramps enabling individuals with disabilities to pursue high quality, good paying careers. The project will embed dedicated Career Pathways Student Advisors in these post-secondary programs to provide intensive support for VCAP participants. VCAP will also partner with other work force development organizations to expand paid, credentialed, occupational training programs in response to employer needs.
Utilizing the best available employment projections for high quality, high wage career pathway opportunities in Vermont, DVR identified the following five career sectors for the project: Advanced Manufacturing, Financial Services, Healthcare, Skilled Construction Trades, and Information Technology. VCAP will utilize its extensive network of employer contacts through its Business Account Managers to engage employers in offering opportunities in these sectors. CCV and VTC, which have program development experience and expertise, will provide the required Related Instruction for apprenticeships and other credentialed programs. These programs will be linked directly to secondary and adult programs offered through the State’s 17 Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers. The project will enroll 500 participants, with 375 earning Industry Recognized Credentials and 75 enrolling in Registered Apprenticeships. 75% of participants will exit their training programs employed and earning at least 150% of the state’s minimum wage.
The Career Training Offset (CTO): DVR has long recognized that many of our consumers cannot participate in industry recognized credential training programs because they cannot afford to stop working. As a result, they remain in entry level employment without the training and skills to move up the career ladder. To address this issue, DVR implemented the Career Training Offset (CTO). DVR consumers participating in trainings that leads to an industry recognized credential, are paid minimum wage for classroom and unpaid instruction time. For example, an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) program has approximately 144 hours of unpaid training time. DVR will pay the consumer minimum wage for these hours, to ensure they have a steady source of income while they get trained. The CTO was launched October 4th of 2021 and we expect it to have a significant impact.
New Partnerships with Training Providers: DVR has always referred consumers to workforce training programs and provided financial support. This year DVR is entered into partnerships with of the following training providers to enroll cohorts of DVR consumers in credentialed training programs:
Construction 101 which will lead to NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research), and OSHA 10 (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certifications.
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Airconditioning) which will lead to Natural Gas/LP EPA Class 1 and OSHA 10 certifications.
CLT (Certified Logistics Technician) which will lead to CLT and OSHA 10 certifications.
DVR also plans to create new workforce training partnerships with CCV and VT Technical College during 2022 and 2023.
Programs and Services
Vocational Rehabilitation Services: DVR services to jobseekers are tailored to the person and driven by his or her own interests, job goals and needs. Each person meets regularly with his or her VR counselor, who helps to develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) and manages the services and supports needed to realize the person’s career goals. The core services of vocational assessment, counseling and guidance, job training, and job placement provided by DVR staff and partners are enhanced with a range of purchased services and supports.
Placement Services: DVR counselors benefit from dedicated Employment Consultants who provide job development, job placement, and workplace supports to help people find and keep jobs. DVR has longstanding partnerships with Designated and Specialized Services Agencies (DAs and SSAs) to provide supported employment services to people with significant disabilities. DVR also has an ongoing partnership with the Vermont Association of Business, Industry, and Rehabilitation (VABIR) to provide employment services to DVR customers.