- Program-Specific Requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation (Combined or General)
The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services Portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan  must include the following descriptions and estimates, as required by section 101(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by title IV of WIOA:
 Sec. 102(b)(2)(D)(iii) of WIOA
- o. State's Strategies
Describe the required strategies and how the agency will use these strategies to achieve its goals and priorities, support innovation and expansion activities, and overcome any barriers to accessing the VR and the Supported Employment programs (See sections 101(a)(15)(D) and (18)(B) of the Rehabilitation Act and section 427 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA)):
- o. State's Strategies
o. 6. Strategies to improve the performance of the State with respect to the performance accountability measures under section 116 of WIOA
For the first two years of PYs 2020-2023 Plans, the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program, , will have two full years of data available for the Measurable Skill Gains indicator only. Therefore, the Departments will designate the following indicators as “baseline” for the VR program for PY 2020 and PY 2021:
• Employment (Second Quarter after Exit);
• Employment (Fourth Quarter after Exit);
• Median Earnings (Second Quarter after Exit); and
• Credential Attainment Rate
In order to develop further strategies to improve the performance of the state, it is necessary to evaluate the baseline data in relation to anticipated and actual performance. Previous strategies implemented for Program Years 2016-2019 may have had had a positive impact and should continue and there may be new strategies to implement which have become apparent in the period in which baseline data was collected and the resulting establishment of the performance requirements.
1. Retention of employment in the second and fourth quarters after exit requires proactive efforts to improve the likelihood that individuals will seek, attain, and retain jobs which are consistent with the individual’s choice and will meet their needs in terms of adequate earnings, benefits, and future opportunities. VR has designated two staff persons to function in the role of WIOA Compliance Specialists whose responsibility includes conducting the required second and fourth quarter follow-ups on participants who have exited the program. This activity involves the collection, validation, documenting and recording of both UI and supplemental wage data. The information collected and reported resulted in a second quarter after exit employment rate of 62.8%. Although this is not necessarily a strategy to improve the performance, it is a strategy to assure VR is basing other strategies upon accurate outcome data and is able to measure the effects of past and future strategies. The recently acquired knowledge of participant retention and wages data provides counseling and management staff with feedback on the value of the services provided in terms of long-term successful employment for VR consumers.
Strategies which have led to successful retention and will continue are the provision of services which lead to skill gains and credential attainment. Providing the individual with a disability with the employer required skills or credentials enhances the likelihood the individual will be able to enter into, retain, or maintain satisfactory employment for the four quarters beyond exit quarter and longer. Although skill gain and credential attainment are separate measures under WIOA, these two actions can and do result in enhanced long-term successful employment. Counselors will use current labor market information to assist consumers in making informed choices regarding in-demand skill level occupations rather than attaining an entry level job that does not require any specific skills or credentials. VR counselors will access training offered through junior colleges, vocational schools, and other WIOA providers in order to enable the participant to have an improved opportunity for success. For consumers who are employed but need VR assistance to maintain or advance in employment, the RAVE (Retaining a Valued Employee) program is a proven strategy for insuring job retention and job satisfaction. The agency recognizes that adequate transportation is a major factor in job retention, especially for persons with the most significant disabilities. Resources are being directed toward enabling participants to manage their own transportation requirements through driving training, accessing and managing personal transportation, and vehicle modification assistance.
2. The agency will provide specific services to consumers that will enhance skill levels and assist in obtaining credentialing that will lead to specific jobs. School age students will be provided Pre-Employment Transition Services which are mandated in WIOA. These services are centered around Career Exploration, Work Based Learning Experiences, Counseling on Post-Secondary Education opportunities, Workplace Readiness, and Self-Advocacy. The agency will increase opportunities for College Preparation training and the agency will work with public schools statewide in order to plan vocational services and increase VR counselors’ presence in the schools. In order to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to services offered through career centers, VR will collaborate with workforce partners by having regular workforce meetings and by assuring the agency is represented on all local workforce boards. The agency will continue to assist consumers with gaining the skills necessary to compete for in-demand jobs through collaboration with technical schools, universities, and partnerships with agencies such as the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT).
3. The measure of effectively serving employers is a combined effort with all WIOA partners and is reported separately from other VR specific measures. The VR agency will effectively serve employers through business services provided through its long-standing Business Relations Program called READI-Net. In order to improve the performance of the state in respect to this performance accountability measure, the READI-Net program will continue to provide disability resources, information and services to businesses in order to meet their disability and employment-related needs. The READI-Net program will also continue to develop new and innovative services for businesses. These new and innovative services will be driven by specific input from long-term ADRS business customers who serve as advisors to ADRS through the VR State Rehabilitation Council’s Employment Committee, through the Disability: IN Alabama, which is the state chapter of the national Disability: IN, and through Business Roundtable Events. The input gained from these business customers will be used to develop strategic plans with businesses which will facilitate the customization of business services in order to assist businesses with their outreach, recruitment, hiring and retention needs, as well as staff training needs, affirmative action planning, metric and record keeping, and customized, company specific, disability-related services. The agency will work in collaboration with the Core Workforce Partners to record and report on the required measurements of Retention and Repeat business. The agency; however, will work in partnership with the Core Workforce Partners to develop an alternate means of measuring its effectiveness in serving employers, as allowed by WIOA regulations.
4. The median earnings for second quarter PY 18 has been released to the state based on data submitted in previous quarters. The Alabama VR median earnings for second quarter after exit was $3,568.00. Although this is the result for Alabama, the Statistical Adjustment Model has not been applied as yet. VR does not have enough information to determine if these results are within an appropriate target. Strategies to improve median wages would include efforts to improve skill gains and credentials to enhance the post-exit earnings of participants. Counseling and guidance utilizing labor market information to guide individuals to education or training programs which lead to higher earnings capability will also be provided. The VR agency’s RAVE (Retaining A Valued Employee) program will increase earnings for consumers based on the fact that these are employed individuals needing rehabilitation services who are receiving higher wages due to time on the job. Successful rehabilitation of these consumers, results in a higher average wage for the agency and benefits the consumer and employer. The agency will also focus on providing services centered around career advancement within their employment. This will allow consumers to acquire additional skills that will elevate opportunities for higher earnings. Employment outcomes with higher wages will also be emphasized with counselors.
5. The measurable skill gains rate for PY 18 was 36.9%. VR currently has a high number of consumers in secondary education and a reasonable number of adults also participating in post-secondary, vocational, or technical training. These individuals who are in a training program which leads to a credential can earn a measurable skill during each year of participation. Considering the Alabama VR strategy to increase retention and earnings is to guide more participants to training which will lead to higher earnings and job satisfaction, this increase will naturally lead to an increase in attainment of a measurable skill gain. However, the issue is complicated by the ability of the agency to collect and properly document measurable skill gain attainment. Counselors have had difficulty obtaining school records to prove completion of a skill gain or credential. Without proper documentation, the skill gain cannot be recorded. A strategy to improve our documentation of skill gains earned will include data sharing agreements with both post-secondary and secondary education institutions as well as improved methods of obtaining documentation from consumers. As the number of participants in an education program which results in a credential rises, the documentation requirements will also increase and the counselors will need to keep pace with the increased record collection demands.