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  Ability Blog

Gears icon This monthly journal from DARS' employment specialists focuses on what's trending in the workplace especially related to disability employment and workforce development.

  DARS' New Workforce Development Unit

  Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act...

  WWRC changes name to reflect workforce readiness...

  Find more entries in our archive...

DARS' New Workforce Development Unit

Dale Batten, Deputy Director for Workforce DevelopmentDARS has been very successful in working with businesses, meeting their hiring needs and helping our job candidates seek employment. Yet we know we can improve how we do business to help our customers achieve their employment dreams and assist the Commonwealth to fill jobs in the labor market.

Last year, we evaluated how we assess the skills and abilities of our clients and how that correlates with Virginia's labor market needs. It became clear that our agency could be much more strategic about tying these two worlds together to enhance employment outcomes for the consumers we serve.

As a result of this program evaluation, the Division of Rehabilitative Services director established a new management level position – deputy director for workforce development – to oversee these important aspects of our service delivery system. I was selected for the new position and have statewide responsibility for leadership, strategic planning and oversight of our business development and vocational evaluation services, along with the Self-Employment Enterprise Program, which helps DRS candidates seeking assistance to establish and operate their own business.

This new Workforce Development Unit works to integrate current labor market trends with strategic assessment/evaluation services for job candidates with disabilities. It brings together business development managers, vocational evaluators and job placement staff. Team members collaborate to assess the skills and abilities of our job candidates; educate businesses on the services DARS offers that can help meet their needs and assist job candidates with their abilities to become entrepreneurs. As job opportunities become available, they identify qualified job candidates to meet businesses' hiring needs.

Among the new unit's accomplishments in 2015 were:

  • AbilityOne Program hiring, through employment service organization Didlake, of more than 112 job candidates hired in the Hampton Roads area, with salaries of $14-$16 per hour.
  • A business partnership with an IT company in Northern Virginia for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Seven job candidates found employment in IT positions in Capital One, with salaries of $18-$20 per hour.
  • A strong federal government hiring initiative throughout the Commonwealth, focused mainly in Northern Virginia, given its labor market. Positions filled range from General Schedule 5-13 levels.

I am honored and excited to lead this model within DRS and to revamp the way we do business. We are confident that these new efforts will result in better paying jobs for Virginians with disabilities whom we serve as well as assist individuals to secure employment in jobs that best match their skills, interests and abilities.

Dale Batten, Deputy Director for Workforce Development, March 2016

Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Business Development Manager William SeatonOn July 26, 1990, the American with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush and later amended in 2008. The ADA provides major civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. The intent of this federal law is to reduce barriers to persons with disabilities and provide equal opportunity in employment, public services, transportation and telecommunications. Title I of the ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate against qualified people with disabilities in employment.

Oftentimes, people with disabilities do not have equal opportunity to work or advance in their employment. People with disabilities are often restricted in employment opportunities by many different kinds of barriers. Some face physical barriers that either make it difficult or impossible to get into and around a workplace or to use work equipment at a site. Some are excluded because of rigid work schedules that do not permit flexibility for people with special needs because of a disability.

In other cases, people are not denied opportunities because of actual barriers, but because of prejudice. These are the barriers in other people's minds: fears, stereotypes, presumptions and misconceptions about job performance, safety, absenteeism, costs or lack of acceptance by co-workers and customers.

We celebrate the 25th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act for helping to level the playing field for people with disabilities, creating an environment in which people with disabilities feel valued and respected is critical to successfully recruiting and retaining them.

Workplace inclusion is a strategy and product of company-wide policies, attitudes and practices. Together, these factors influence employee perceptions about the work environment, which in turn, impacts engagement, job satisfaction and productivity. Creating a positive work environment for employees of diverse backgrounds should include strategies for the inclusion of people with disabilities, acknowledging that all employees desire to participate in an environment that allows them to work to their full potential.

Contact business development manager to get information on the services and supports that DARS offers to help with your company?s inclusion strategy.

How will you celebrate the anniversary of the ADA on July 26? You can learn more by going to www.adalegacy.com/ada25-how-will-you-celebrate.

Business Development Manager William Seaton, July 2015

WWRC changes name to reflect workforce readiness

Director of Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Rick SizemoreOn July 1, 2015, Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center will officially change its name to Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center. Since 1947, we have proudly served Virginians with disabilities, helping to develop the independence and job skills needed to be self-sufficient.

Over the years, we have adapted to meeting the changing needs of Virginians with disabilities. We are adapting once again, as we officially become Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.

This new name reflects our mission of helping individuals with disabilities go to work while preserving our legacy of comprehensive vocational and medical services.

As Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, we will remain:

  • Dedicated to helping Virginians with disabilities obtain the transformational services necessary for independence and employment.
  • Committed to providing medical therapies that help individuals with disabilities return to work or prepare to participate in one of our workforce-driven vocational training programs.
  • Responsive to the changing needs of Virginia's labor market. We are mindful that the Commonwealth's labor force will need more than a million new skilled and credentialed workers in the coming years.

WWRC's vocational programs will continue to help individuals with disabilities walk through an employer's door, confident and ready to succeed in the new Virginia economy.

Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center creates hope and a path to employment so individuals with disabilities can work, lead more fulfilling lives, enhance our Virginia workforce and move the new Virginia Economy forward.

Director of Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Rick Sizemore, June 2015