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Business Engagement Blog


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


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