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p. 1. A. Identify the strategies that contributed to the achievement of the goals

Current Narrative:

Goal 1 - Provide quality, relevant, individualized vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their career potential

Priority 1 - Expand, monitor, and improve pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) to students with disabilities and similar services to youth.

The Division began collecting new baseline data for the number of students receiving Pre-ETS and has initial data in PY 2016 with the first full year of data in PY 2017 with 1180 students receiving at least one Pre-ETS activity.  PY 2018 number dipped 19.7 percent to 947 students receiving at least one Pre-ETS activity however these numbers rebounded in PY 2019 to 1013 students and further increased in PY 2020 with 1209 students receiving at least one activity. IDVR requires more data to determine whether this is due to natural regression, or other yet to be determined factors. Additionally, IDVR has experienced a division wide decrease in overall applications for all services. The Division will continue to monitor these indicators and will respond accordingly as the numbers solidify.

The Division continues to evaluate and improve services to students.  The transition coordinator, along with other transition staff, developed a strategic plan in Fall 2021with the goal of systematically advancing the Division’s delivery of Pre-ETS.  This latest strategic plan for Pre-ETS expansion and improvement is detailed in section ‘d’ of this plan.

Priority 2- Provide a comprehensive array of services to individuals with disabilities, including individuals with Most Significant Disabilities (MSD).

IDVR engaged in a sustained expansion of Supported Employment services, including a heightened focus on employment stability prior to the transition to long-term supports.  SE expenditures per case have decreased during COVID-19 averaging $1,661 in SE expenses per SE case per year.  This is down from 2,345 in PY 2018 but still higher than the $1218 per case baseline in PY 2016.  This increase helped promote initial stability through additional hours of Job Coaching for individuals to master the essential function of the position to employer satisfaction.

The Division has hired a Community Rehabilitation Programs Manager who is currently engaged in a rate methodology evaluation for all traditional CRP services. This position will be directly involved in the Innovation and Expansion activities targeted at CRP improvement and will assist in IDVR’s next Customized Employment project.

The Division has introduced stronger guidance, for staff and CRPs, on fading and appropriate reduction of support over time to ensure strategies are in place to either address current issues on the job or determine a base level of ongoing support required prior to transition to ongoing support services. These efforts are ongoing, and the Division is currently working through public comment to enhance this guidance in a new iteration of the IDVR’s CRP Manual.  Enhanced guidance on fading and documenting progress necessary to justify the continuation of SE services will be major components of the next manual revision.

The Division is currently structuring a second pilot to address challenges experienced in the first attempt to launch CE in Idaho.  The Division anticipates a relaunch of Customized Employment 2.0 sometime in PY 2022-2023 following the CRP rate assessment project.

The Division has received intensive TA from WINTAC and is currently engaged in WINTAC’s Community of Practice (CoP) on both Supported and Customized Employment.

The Division has executed its Strategic Plan to Expand Benefits Planning to Idaho’s customers with MSD.  Initial Benefits Planning Services were launched PY 2020 with the service achieving statewide availability in PY 2022.  Benefits Planning has been identified as a priority by Idaho’s State Rehabilitation Council, and IDVR's field management and this initiative realizes a long-term shared goal for the SRC and IDVR

Priority 3 - Hire and retain qualified staff to deliver quality vocational rehabilitation services.

IDVR has had significant challenges recruiting and retaining qualified staff over the past several years and this has been even more evident over the past year.  To increase IDVR’s effectiveness in hiring and retaining qualified staff especially for the QRP positions the following strategies have been implemented or will be within the year:

  • Flexibilities in work schedules
  • Tuition and allowed work time for schooling requirements for staff working to achieve CSPD standard
  • Paid Internship opportunities for students that meet CSPD Education credentials
  • Collaborating with Division of Human Resources to demonstrate need for increased wages for State employees to be competitive
  • Improved Job Announcements

Furthermore, IDVR has implemented a QRP Stabilization program, effective 11/29/2021 which implements the following recruitment/retention strategies:

  1. Bonus program for newly hired QRPs effective immediately for as long as our budget permits as follows: sign-on bonus ($2500 with second paycheck – no service commitment), recruitment bonus ($2500 upon satisfactory completion of probation with 1 year service commitment from pay date of bonus), and retention bonus ($2500 upon completion of 1 year of service with no documented performance issues in exchange for 1 year service commitment from payment date)
  2. Retention bonuses in the amount of $5000 for each incumbent QRP staff member in exchange for a service commitment of 2 years from the pay date of the retention bonus.
  3. Increase in the hire rate for the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor job title to $24.04 per hour.

Priority 4 - Improve usage of Labor Market Information/Career Pathways to inform customer career choice.

IDVR continues to use the Career Index Plus and the Idaho Department of Labor tools and resources to advance this priority.

The Idaho Department of Labor is regularly invited to IDVR’s Inservice to provide training on local labor markets and IDOL tools available, including accessing local labor economists, to better understand local area conditions. Training on Comprehensive Assessment incorporating local labor market data is a continued emphasis for the agency. The Division continues to evaluate career pathways tools to assist counselors and customers in promoting informed decisions on vocational goals and potential career arcs, however improvements to the career pathways initiative is still a need for the agency.

The Division included an evaluation of LMI present in Comprehensive Assessments in its 2019-2021 Case File Review Seasons and will be promoting greater utilization of local (or anticipated) labor market for the vocational goal of choice.  The 2022 version of the instrument will isolate local LMI analysis as a distinct item within the assessment to better gauge the impact of training.  The Combined portion of this plan outlines new tools developed in a partnership with IDOL, the Idaho STEM Action Center and the Idaho Workforce Development Council which will be a part of systemwide training to promote the utilization of live LMI dashboards.

Goal 2 - Improve VR program efficiency through continuous quality improvement activities

Priority 1 - Meet or exceed negotiated targets on Primary Performance Indicators 1-5 established by the US Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration.

As of September 2019, Idaho’s core program partners have all signed on to the State Wage Interchange System (SWIS) and will now be able to gather additional out-of-state data from other SWIS states. IDVR has met or exceeded all negotiated targets with RSA in this two-year period.

IDOL secured a Workforce Data Quality Initiative WDQI grant from US DOL with expressed support from the Division.  IDVR is working with the WDQI lead and other core WIOA programs to leverage the WDQI resources to improve and automate the exchange of secure co-enrollment data and other critical shared elements of importance to the group. As a result of efforts identified in the WDQI, core programs should realize more efficient and secure data exchange of required WIOA data elements needed by multiple core partners.

IDVR now has data online for all Primary Performance Indicators 1-5 and is well positioned to use these indicators, alongside other measures to monitor performance under WIOA. 

Priority 2 - Revise IDVR’s Customer Satisfaction Survey in collaboration with the State Rehabilitation Council to increase the response rate, retention rate, and overall satisfaction rate.

Priority 2 has met most of the major goals outlined.  The agency will continue to monitor the overall satisfaction rate for customers now that the CSS is stable and operating as intended.

Priority 3 - Maximize the utilization of comparable benefits.

Preliminary attention has been given to this priority and understanding comparable benefit utilization and documentation is a current focus area for IDVR’s Case File Review.  Emerging data suggests a need to further information and communication activities to not only maximize the utilization of comparable benefits and services, but also to better document these benefits on the plan when they are used. The Division is not currently satisfied with our level of comparable benefit quarterly reporting and is working toward improving the utilization and accurate reporting of comparable benefits.

IDVR is working to increase appropriate referral to American Job Center Network Partners in local areas: IDVR’s administrator is Idaho’s Workforce Development Council One-Stop chairperson, and in this capacity has increased local area engagement between WIOA combined plan partners and other stakeholders.  This is accomplished via multiple monthly in-person meetings to facilitate better understanding of programs and increase utilization of available resources and expertise. This should have an impact on volume and validity of referrals to comparable services and resources and a corresponding increase in co-enrollment between combined plan partners.  The Division is also involved with the DataLabs project which seeks, in part, to identify potential co-enrollment opportunities to increase meaningful co-enrollment with other WIOA partners.

The Division has also issued recent guidance clarifying the scope of comparable benefits and included procedures for better documenting comparable benefits on the IPE.

IDVR is using RSA’s data dashboards as a part of its data validation strategy.  In this analysis the Division has uncovered a flaw in how these are represented in the report through the Aware case management system.  IDVR is working hand-in-hand with Aware to better understand and rectify this reporting error.

Priority 4 - Increase IDVR integration with the workforce development system.

The IDVR Administrator is the Workforce Development Council (WDC) One-Stop Committee Chair.  The Committee has prioritized numerous activities since the last State Plan, including:

  • Idaho’s One-Stop/American Job Center structure has been formalized including: two comprehensive centers (Idaho Falls and Lewiston), and the designation of affiliate sites, and network partners. 
  • A cost sharing agreement between WIOA partners has been completed August 2021 and is now in effect.
  • Conducting both physical and programmatic accessibility of comprehensive, affiliate, and network partner sites. 
  • Co-enrollment information is now being exchanged, however efforts to increase relevant co-enrollment are advancing through combined plan partner efforts including IDVR direct participation in WDQI and DataLabs co-enrollment focused projects.

Priority 5 - Evaluate IDVR assessment expenditures.

While the evaluation of assessment expenditures remains a priority for the agency, progress on this priority was minimal this PY.  The Division is committed to launching and finalizing our off-season evaluation of assessment expenditures in PY 2022.

Priority 6 - Revise internal case review process to align with WIOA requirements and inform the continuous quality improvement cycle.

Priority 6 has been met in whole and is an institutionalized cyclical activity in IDVR’s continuous quality improvement strategy.  This priority will be removed or substantially modified in the next state plan. 

Priority 7 - Collaborate with Community Rehabilitation Program partners to improve the quality of services.

IDVR continues to improve how we communicate with and work with our Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRPs).  Fundamental to these changes was the establishment of a formalized CRP Manual articulating and clarifying expectations and requirements around billing, service delivery, monitoring, pilot CRP projects, rural and underserved areas and frequently asked questions.  The Division is in the middle of a revision phase and is currently collecting comment from internal field staff and CRPs to make incremental improvements to the guide and will continue to do so over time. While a new Manual was slated for release in January 2022, this update has been postponed in conjunction with the creation of a CRP Manager position to help meet this priority which was filled 11/1/2021.

Customer Satisfaction Survey results for CRP services (including assessment services) are particularly low and continue to indicate a strong need to act on this priority.

IDVR realizes a need to further enhance collaboration with CRPs to work on a variety of services from assessment, to job development and placement and to include supported and customized employment.  Data from both the 2016 and 2020 CSNA strongly indicate a need to utilize Innovation and Expansion funds to elevate the quality of CRPs in the coming state plan. This will be a primary emphasis for the Division in this plan.

Goal 3 - Meet the needs of Idaho businesses

Priority 1 - IDVR to be recognized by the business community as the disability experts in the workforce system.

IDVR provides coordination of employer related outreach efforts within the Division and coordinated services under the aegis of WIOA through partnerships with Titles I-IV and other combined state plan partners. IDVR continues to evolve services provided to business and has plans for continued the growth and expansion of the business relations team, additional training for IDVR staff, increase of services provided to business, as well as increasing coordinated services to business with partners.

IDVR continues to engage in coordinated business services internally through the Business Engagement Leadership Team. This team is comprised of at least one IDVR staff representative from each region, with the activities of the team directed by the Business Relations Manager. Regional Manager representation is also present within the team with two of eight Regional Managers providing support.

IDVR completed strategic planning sessions in the fall of 2020 to identify the next steps needed to further develop and increase agency performance serving business customers. The strategic planning sessions took place over four different sessions where agency business engagement activities were discussed, evaluated, and identified needs were prioritized. Following the strategic planning sessions, the feedback was synthesized into a working plan.

The goals of the working plan identified various areas of focus over the next five years including the implementation of minimum performance expectations for each IDVR job category, increasing staff competency when connecting with business/providing services, development of a communication plan for business engagement, to establish the Division as a resource to business, to develop a strategy for completing business engagement activities with outside agencies and partners, and to increase overall agency business engagement performance. Significant Division progress towards these goals has been made since the development of this business work plan.

IDVR has revised the identified job descriptions to include business engagement into the job classification descriptions. Additionally, regional Business Engagement Plans were developed and implemented including an outline of goals for business engagement.  These goals include the utilization of a team approach within each region that allows staff to participate in business engagement activities in various ways based upon their individual strengths.

Staff competency across the Division has been increased through addressing training and competency at the regional level as identified in each Regional Business Engagement plan, as well as training delivered by the Business Relations Manager. Training delivered to each region by the Business Relations Manager has been identified based upon review of agency performance and review of staff needs that have been identified. Regional training has been identified and provided based upon review of the specific needs staff of that team. Additionally, a formal training outline to provide training to identified staff upon the completion of their entrance probationary period has been developed.

With the multitude of changes that have been implemented, there has been an increase in the variety and quality of services provided to businesses. Division staff are providing more support to businesses in Workforce Recruitment Assistance, Training Services, and Accessing Untapped Labor Pools than in prior years. These quality services provided to business have increased from 18% (179) of services provided to business in 2018, to 21% (148) in 2020 and to 33% (261) to date in 2021. Additionally, quality relationships with business and number of services provided to business customers are expected to continue to grow with the outlined goals related to quantity and quality of engagements with business in each Regional Business Engagement plan and through continued implementation of the Division’s Business Engagement Strategic Plan.

IDVR is currently evaluating the potential expansion of the Business Relations team to improve the quality of services provided to business, with expanded capacity to provide additional services. This evaluation is for the purpose of determining the capacity required to allow the Division to meet the vision of the program and to align with the goals under WIOA to increase employer services and partnership with WIOA partners at the local level to allow for increased and effective collaboration. 

IDVR will continue to coordinate business outreach efforts with the Idaho Department of Labor, and their business outreach team which serves as the central point of contact for WIOA coordinated business outreach activities. IDVR will continue to participate in the One-Stop Teams to enhance partnerships with Titles I-IV and other combined state plan partners throughout the state. The partnership for serving Idaho Business will be elevated with an enhanced partnership and collaboration for serving Idaho Businesses, through Apprenticeship, under the DOL Apprenticeship Grant.

IDVR’s Business Relations Coordinator is engaged with the National Employment Team (the NET) and attends the national conference in addition to receiving regular updates, conference calls provided through a NET community of practice. IDVR also has a working group through federal Region X (WA, OR, AK, ID) where business engagement leads from each state share best practices and approaches. Additionally, the business engagement leads in Region X are working to expand joint services to businesses that have a multi-state presence to better meet the needs of Region X businesses.