As chair of the Standard 2 Subcommittee, the Career & Workforce Development Division (CWDD) Director hosted a department—wide staff meeting in mid-November, 2016, with invited guests from Admissions and Vocational Evaluation, to formally launch the self-study process for WWRC's workforce training programs. The meeting was facilitated by the Center's Lead Quality Assurance Specialist using a structured Strengths-Weaknesses–Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) Analysis for each section of Standard 2.
The information presented in this written analysis combines stakeholder feedback from this SWOT session with established organizational direction documented in WWRC's Administrative Governance Manual and with issues and strategies offered through the CWDD Operational Supervisor Team led by the newly hired CWDD Director, as part of a major organizational restructuring initiative of the Center's workforce training programs effective July 1, 2016. Staff at all levels have been highly engaged and motivated to acknowledge strengths and celebrate successes while simultaneously seeking opportunities for growth and development under new leadership. The COE self-study process offered a structure and set of benchmarks for this process.
This narrative for Standard 2 of the 2017 Accreditation Self-Study Report represents a broad overview, synthesis, and analysis of all workforce training programs offered through the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC). As such, it contains composite findings and recommendations across all workforce training programs and course offerings. A more specific analysis, per program area, is contained in the accompanying Individual Program Supplements.
COE Self-Study Supplements: Instructional Programs
The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS)/Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS), represented by over 30 field offices located across Virginia, is the primary referral source for applicants to WWRC's programs and services, by design of the Agency and as defined in the Code of Virginia. The WWRC Admissions Director and Rehabilitation Counseling Division share accountability with the full Executive Team for developing and nurturing relationships with each of these DRS Field Offices for recruitment of appropriate referrals for WWRC services and programs. Likewise, there is a shared accountability for successful employment outcomes between WWRC and DRS Offices, as two divisions of the same parent Agency, DARS. A small minority of referrals are made from other state agencies and private pay sources.
Applicants for WWRC's workforce training programs must first meet general WWRC admissions criteria, per established policies and procedures. Any additional prerequisite requirements for entry to specific training programs are available through the WWRC website or by contacting the Admissions Department or Vocational Training Administrative Office. Contact information is provided on the WWRC website. Admission requirements and recruitment activities, per established policies and procedures, fully meet COE standards.
For both DARS/DRS and other Agency and private pay referrals, WWRC's admissions criteria are clearly stated and published on its Internet website, available for viewing by interested applicants prior to enrollment. Families, school systems, and other agencies who may visit WWRC for a guided tour will also receive this information as part of their visit. Likewise, all new DARS/DRS Rehabilitation Counselors, upon hire, participate in a formal New Counselor Skills Training (NCST) Program which includes a two-day orientation to WWRC services and programs, including an opportunity to meet with WWRC Admissions staff and understand WWRC admissions criteria and application procedures. Knowledge gained through the NCST Program has resulted in more effective and efficient communication between DARS/DRS Rehabilitation Counselors and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) clients on their caseloads (and their families) when WWRC is being considered as the setting of choice for VR services, including workforce development and training.
WWRC does not offer any Vocational English-As-A-Second-Language programs.
Transfer of students within programs and services at WWRC and/or recommendations for program terminations and transfers to alternative community-based programs are initiated through WWRC's Rehabilitation Counseling Division. One fully credentialed (or eligible to sit for the CRCC exam per EWP requirements) WWRC Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor is assigned to each individual student upon enrollment in a given training program. This Rehabilitation Counselor serves as a liaison between the student, family (as appropriate), DRS Field Rehabilitation Counselor (or other referring party), and other needed WWRC programs and services. The assigned WWRC Rehabilitation Counselor is responsible for leading an interdisciplinary team process designed to define and monitor rehabilitation goals toward successful community re-entry.
WWRC's governance procedure regarding the transfer of students between programs within the institution is published on its Internet website. Transfers from one program area to another program area in the Vocational Training Department are the exception and not the rule. The DRS counselor, WWRC counselor, instructor, and other members of the team would allow a client to change program area after consideration of the request, and with approval from the CWDD Director, under the following circumstances:
If a client loses interest and decides that he/she will not work and/or refuses to work in the training area, this is a reason for termination, not transfer. If an internal program transfer is determined appropriate, the assigned Rehabilitation Counselor is expected to contact the WWRC Admissions Department to review the request and take final action – this centralized process, recently instituted as part of a Center-wide tactical Blueprint initiative, is intended to ensure consistently applied criteria and standards related to program scheduling and intakes.
WWRC considers each application independently, per defined admissions protocols, and does not directly accept transfer of students from other institutions. There is no formal policy on transfer of credits to WWRC for students from other institutions as WWRC does not offer associate degree programs.
It is WWRC's intention to accept for admission any eligible individual with a disability whose needs are compatible with WWRC's structure, staff, and resources. Upon receipt of a completed Application for Admissions, WWRC's Admissions Department carefully reviews documentation to ensure that all general admissions criteria and individual program/course prerequisites, as relevant and appropriate, are met. Pre-admission Technicians are trained in the application of individual program entrance criteria. WWRC believes its admission policies and practices offer reasonable expectations for successful completion of the WWRC's workforce training programs.
Students beyond compulsory school attendance age who have not earned a high school diploma or equivalent are identified through routine admissions processes. While this does not, in itself, preclude admission to the Center and/or a given training program, for those occupational fields requiring a high school diploma or equivalent, enrolled students will be referred to appropriate academic supports to receive assessment and instructional services toward achievement of a GED. Participation in GED preparation and testing is typically based on student choice, and those for whom this would be an industry requirement are strongly encouraged to participate. Participation in the GED preparation and testing program is required for enrolled students without a high school diploma or recognized equivalent who otherwise qualify for Title IV funding through Ability To Benefit (ATB) provisions and who do not receive a passing score on an ATB-approved test.
WWRC also offers assessment and instructional support towards attainment of the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) for consumers in its vocational training programs. The CRC is based on the WorkKeys® System designed by American College Testing (ACT) to help predict job behavior and to measure the full potential of individuals. Virginia's CRC is an assessment-based workforce credential that is designed to help describe the abilities of a potential or current employee in three important work-related areas: Applied Mathematics; Reading for Information; and, Locating Information. Information on WWRC's CRC Program is published on its website.
Final decisions about admissions are based on an individual's potential to live on campus safely while gaining workforce skills. As long as an otherwise eligible applicant has demonstrated they are stable and ready to commit to a vocational rehabilitation goal, WWRC will consider admission. Applicants who do not meet full admission requirements based on safety and/or medical, physical, or psychological stability factors will be considered on a case-by-case basis, through a more formal pre-admissions process. The WWRC Admissions Committee is available to review applicants who may be considered 'at risk' in the WWRC environment and is accountable for oversight of referrals where there is an identified 'red flag' risk management concern through normal admissions procedures. The Admissions Committee is authorized to seek clarification and/or additional information from the referring DRS Rehabilitation Counselor to determine if the individual will be safe to self and others in the WWRC living and learning environment during their stay in residence. Emphasis is placed on effective communications and partnerships with DRS within the context of an overall 'risk assessment'.
Appeals of WWRC admission decisions are addressed through Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) Field Manager and Counselor review. If the admission is supported by the DRS Field Manager with supporting documentation, the applicant's denial will be reconsidered by the WWRC Admissions Committee.
WWRC has written policies and procedures for these types of exceptions (i.e. those not fully meeting all required academic prerequisites at time of admission and those considered to be 'at risk' in the residential environment), applies these uniformly, provides documented evidence on how they are used, maintains records on student progress, and regularly evaluates the effectiveness of the procedures used in admitting these students.
All recruitment activities that the Center conducts via tours, its accessible website, and through communications with the Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) are performed in an ethical manner, consistent with the organization's values. WWRC's website is continuously updated to ensure that it accurately articulates WWRC's vision and mission, instructional outcomes, student performance expectations, and completion requirements for each training program. The website replaces all former brochures used for marketing and recruitment and is WWRC's official publication for this purpose.
The Postsecondary Education Rehabilitation Transition (PERT) Program, administered by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education and housed at WWRC, is a highly effective school-to-work transition initiative that offers a comprehensive, residential assessment of vocational strengths and abilities, social and interpersonal skills critical to workplace success, and independent living skills. The Pre-Employment Readiness and Education Program, formerly known as the Life Skills Transition Program (LSTP), is a nine-week program targeting young adults with disabilities and designed to teach 'soft skills' critical to employment success.
WWRC's PERT and LSTP/PREP programs offer a continuum of service for youth and young adults with disabilities and help to establish a solid foundation for development of appropriate work behaviors and skills critical to employment success. Data indicates that students who successfully complete the PERT and/or PREP (LSTP) programs prior to entry into one of WWRC's workforce training programs are more likely to graduate and to be successfully rehabilitated than those who do not. Because both PERT and LSTP are supported by the Virginia Department of Education and are recognized across the Commonwealth for highly successful student outcomes, these programs offer a 'natural recruitment link' to WWRC's workforce training programs that supplement more formal recruitment strategies. Five-year trending data, SFY 2012 – SFY 2016, indicates that over 70% of PREP (LSTP) graduates subsequently enter a WWRC Training Program as part of their VR Program.
Prospective applicants and their families may check the WWRC website for its Net Price Calculator to estimate costs of the program and required equipment, services, time, and technical competencies. New students, once enrolled are provided an orientation to technology and available technical supports, through their assigned workforce program. Industry-specific technology requirements are reviewed and updated regularly in consultation with WWRC's Business/Industry Advisory Committees, the DARS (DRS/WWRC) Business Development Team, and through corporate partnerships and other networks within Virginia's workforce community.
WWRC does not offer any distance education programs.
During the SWOT Analysis, staff identified the following strengths related to the COE's Standard 2, Admissions/Recruiting subsection, many of which have resulted from targeted tactical organizational initiatives implemented since 2012 as part of WWRC's Blueprint strategic planning processes:
However, staff also acknowledged that some of the changes that have been recently implemented due to Blueprint initiatives relative to admissions and recruiting have not yet fully evolved and offer opportunities for continued refinement:
Additional opportunities for growth, development, and refinement identified during the departmental SWOT that are more unique to individual programs will be included in the Individual Program Supplements.
WWRC continuously assesses Virginia's workforce needs, the aptitudes and abilities of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) consumers and statewide economic data and industry trends to configure Center services to meet the needs of Agency vocational rehabilitation (VR) clients. WWRC is the first state-owned and operated comprehensive rehabilitation center in the nation. WWRC is a key and essential component of the Commonwealth of Virginia's DARS Agency which serves as the designated State Unit for the Federal VR Program administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).
WWRC's mission is to provide people with disabilities comprehensive, individualized services to realize personal independence through employment. WWRC continuously nurtures its partnership with the DARS/DRS to ensure that its occupational education programs are congruent with Agency/Center vision and mission as well as the needs of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) clients served by the Agency, as balanced with workforce needs of the statewide community it serves. WWRC's workforce training program curricula and course content are reviewed at least annually against current and projected labor market trends across the Commonwealth of Virginia, historical and projected referral patterns, and historical and projected population profiles for students served. Any changes or modifications are reflected in the WWRC website.
One of the first priorities of the newly hired Career and Workforce Development Division (CWDD) Director was to initiate a critical review of WWRC's vocational training program policies and procedures, to reinforce the Center's workforce-driven philosophy and to align with COE Self-Study processes. These program policies are included in the revised Vocational Training Operations Manual, with relevant sections to be publicly accessible on WWRC's website before the scheduled 2017 Accreditation Visiting Team arrives. The CWDD Director, in collaboration with the Training Department Operational Supervisor Team, is accountable for continuous evaluation of these program policies to ensure they are implemented in a non-discriminatory manner and consistently applied.
Any differences in student learning and/or program outcomes or other factors that may justify variance across occupational education program policies are expected to be critically analyzed in consultation with the Lead WWRC Program Evaluation (PE) Analyst and the full WWRC Pegboard Team to determine known and potential "ripple effects" that may affect census, utilization, and business processes across the WWRC environment prior to any action taken. Where feasible and appropriate, differences, if any, in occupational education program policies are also expected to be reviewed in advance with DRS District Managers to ensure clarity and consistency in application.
The instructor(s) for each occupational education program is accountable for development and maintenance of a written curriculum stating the program's objectives, content relevant to the objectives and current needs of business and industry, and the method used to evaluate each student based on the program objectives and content. Individual Program Supplements for each course offering are attached to this Self-Study. The Department's Satisfactory Academic Progress policy and related business processes for the assessment of student achievement based on based on program objectives and content are documented in the Vocational Training Operations Manual.
WWRC uses a variety of processes to document that its occupational education program objectives and content are current and relevant to the workforce and business community:
As part of its ongoing strategic planning and related business processes, WWRC considers the length and tuition of each training program offering in relation to a variety of factors, including statewide labor market data, workforce partner and Advisory Committee input, outcome (placement) success, documented entry level earnings of completers, and data obtained from comparable organizations offering similar programs and courses (i.e. Consortia of State-Operated Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers).
WWRC's workforce training programs operate on a year-round, open enrollment basis. Published course offerings are based on clock (contact) hours and reflect an average length of stay, but all coursework is individualized and students may take more or less time, based on requisite skills at time of entry, level of motivation, and other factors. Students may "test out" of specific competencies through demonstration of mastery of skills, as defined by each Instructor. Individualized instruction allows maximum flexibility for disability-related accommodation and/or vocational/medical rehabilitation needs to assist students in achieving a given vocational goal. However, any increase in length of program in excess of 25% requires formal review by the assigned Rehabilitation Team, with approval by the CWDD Director, or designee, to determine feasibility for continuation and/or changes in program goals.
WWRC does not offer any Associate Degree programs.
WWRC only has one campus and does not offer distance learning training programs.
All of WWRC's training programs, regardless of whether they are provided on-site or in local/statewide communities through the External Training Option (ETO) program, are qualitatively consistent and approved and administered under WWRC's policies and procedures.
All of WWRC's training programs are supervised and evaluated by an instructor and corresponding Operational Supervisor, with on-site administrative oversight by the CWDD Director. All official student records are documented in secured electronic databases to include AWARE and DocFinity; requests to access official student records must be centrally routed through the WWRC Records Management Department located on campus. Each training area's program information including tuition/fee charges, refund policies, admission and academic requirements and information technology requirements, where appropriate, is described on the Center's web page. Finally, the number of days allocated to complete each training program provides for meaningful interaction between faculty and students.
During the SWOT Analysis, staff identified the following strengths related to the COE's Standard 2, Programs subsection, many of which have resulted from targeted tactical organizational initiatives implemented since 2012 as part of WWRC's Blueprint strategic planning processes.
During the SWOT Analysis, staff also acknowledged opportunities for continued growth, development, and refinement resulting from the restructured Career and Workforce Development Division, leveraging the framework of COE's Self-Study process:
Additional opportunities for growth, development, and refinement identified during the departmental SWOT that are more unique to individual programs will be included in the Individual Program Supplements.
Academic competencies and occupational skills are integrated into the instructional program for each occupational area. In addition, students have access to remedial academic supports and learning supports through a variety of services and programs that may assist them in demonstrating satisfactory academic progress. Each training program provides sequenced instruction in the specific competencies essential to success in the occupation including job knowledge, technical job skills, work habits, proper attitudes, job-related health & safety skills, academic skills, and workplace readiness skills. See Individual Program Supplements for more detail.
Instruction is organized per specified standards and sufficient practice with equipment and materials required for a specified graduation path is offered on-site, and/or through community-based internship experiences. Instructors are expected to organize their instructional materials using competency-based educational techniques such that there is a written curriculum, a Vocational Skills Record, and competency tests for each training program.
WWRC holds instructors accountable for developing a systematic, objective, and equitable method of evaluating student achievement based on required competencies. Instructors are also held accountable for tracking and recording each student's progress throughout the student's training program.
The majority of training programs afford students with a real world work experience through either a community-based or on-site based internship experience, typically 4-6 weeks in length, as a requisite to graduation. Each work-based activity has a written instructional plan for students specifying the particular objectives, experiences, competencies, and evaluations that are required. The internship experience offers an opportunity for the student to demonstrate mastery of and apply acquired skills in an industry setting, under the guidance of a business mentor. Internship experiences are graded by the business mentor and serve as a final, independent evaluation of the student's skill attainment and mastery. Individual Program Supplements, where relevant, explain any exceptions to this process.
For students participating in community-based internships or the External Training Option (ETO) Program, an individual Agreement specifying roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the employer, WWRC, and student is on file with WWRC and the participating employer. A qualified WWRC faculty member is responsible for oversight of all community-based training activities offered. Student achievement based on specified competencies is tracked, monitored, and evaluated in an ongoing, systematic manner. Evidence of WWRC's compliance with related COE standards will be on exhibit.
Each occupational education program area has a designated Advisory Committee, each defined by and operated under a written Charter, to ensure that desirable, relevant, and current practices of each occupation are being taught. The occupational advisory committees routinely review and recommend: the appropriateness of the type of instruction being used, prerequisite admissions requirements specific to each training program, program objectives, content, sequence of instruction, delivery mode, course length, and completion requirements, industry technology standards and expectations, competency tests and other methods of student performance evaluations, and instructional material and equipment.
Through 2016, the standard was for each Business/Advisory Committee to meet at least once annually – Effective CY 2017, the frequency of meetings has been increased to reflect current COE standards and expectations. At least three of the members are external to WWRC and are potential employers of the graduates. As WWRC serves the entire state of Virginia, an attempt has historically been made to recruit members from outside the local geographical service area; however, this is not always possible due to the distance from the Center some members would have to travel to attend the meetings. Consideration will be given to use of remote technologies (video-conferencing and go-to meetings) to expand membership representation outside the local/regional area. Written minutes of each meeting are kept to document the members' activities and recommendations. Historically, these minutes have been maintained in paper form, but as part of the COE Self-Study process, they will now be maintained electronically and housed on the Vocational Training Accreditation SharePoint site for ready archival retrieval and use.
Historically WWRC conducted an annual General Business Advisory Committee, comprised of members across all occupational education programs, to review student and program performance outcomes across programs and to obtain employer feedback and recommendations for overall training program directions and priorities in relation to projected labor market and workplace literacy needs as well as outcomes realized. However, with the evolution of a newly instituted DARS Agency Business Development Team, WWRC has nurtured its relationship to develop a working DRS/WWRC partnership for enhanced access to statewide employer networks on a routine basis.
The DARS (DRS/WWRC) Business Development Team operates under a written charter and now serves as WWRC's Institutional Advisory Committee. This partnership has been highly beneficial in increasing employer engagement and has resulted in numerous tours by statewide corporate representatives organized by DRS Business Development Managers and an expressed interest in partnering more closely with WWRC for curriculum development, internship opportunities, and job placement. Examples will be discussed with Visiting Team members during the scheduled site visit.
During the SWOT Analysis, staff identified the following strengths related to the COE's Standard 2, Instruction subsection:
Staff acknowledged opportunities to enhance instruction through team teaching and co-teaching model, increased use of mobile Assistive Technology (AT) applications, and targeted professional development opportunities to enhance direct instruction and classroom observations. Staff also acknowledged the capacity to strengthen alignment of workforce-based technologies and assessment/instructional tools between Vocational Evaluation labs and Vocational Training classrooms, leveraging opportunities afforded through the restructured Career and Workforce Development Division and potential co-location and shared resources resulting from building construction in process.
Challenges and Proposed Solutions
Some of the challenges faced by WWRC's occupational education programs have been identified as part of the SWOT process and will be addressed as part of the CWDD restructuring initiative (currently in process), through building construction and space reconfiguration (currently in progress), and as action steps within WWRC's strategic Blueprint initiatives (ongoing organizational self-improvement goals). Clarity will be achieved in occupational education policies, procedures, standards, and expectations in the revised Vocational Training Operations Manual and through consistent reinforcement and support by the Operational Supervisor Team and CWDD Director. Advisory Committee changes have been implemented, effective Spring, 2017, per written Charters that are fully aligned with COE accreditation standards and expectations.
It is understood that change takes time, especially change that impacts behavior and operations. However, WWRC leadership is highly committed to organizational improvement for the benefit of persons served. Construction of the R.N. Anderson Training Building is underway as a multi-year process. It is challenging to operate and manage programs during the construction period, with one wing of the building closed at any given time, but the end result will be worth the wait. Similarly, change management processes resulting from Blueprint and organizational restructuring initiatives will take time and patience to fully evolve and implement, but the impact of these changes will be far-reaching with numerous benefits to the programs themselves and outcomes of persons served. Staff will be expected to hold each other accountable, in accordance with WWRC's vision.
Additional measures currently in process to address challenges identified through the SWOT process include:
A major external influence across WWRC's training programs is the DARS Agency-imposed Order of Selection which affects not only the admissions/recruiting subsection of Standard 2, but also the type and level of instruction and wrap-around supports students require in/out of the classroom to attain workforce skills and credentials and ultimately, employment in the field for which they are trained. Since DARS is the primary referral source for applicants to WWRC's programs and services, governed under federal VR regulations and as defined in the Code of Virginia, Order of Selection poses very real challenges to WWRC's occupational education programs. A more detailed description of this challenge is included under the Standard 1 Self-Study narrative and more specifics per training program are included in Individual Program Supplements. Within the context of Order of Selection, census and utilization of WWRC's programs and services, including its occupational education programs, is at an all-time high. The WWRC Pegboard Team meets weekly to monitor trends and patterns and to mutually problem-solve areas of concern. This, combined with an increasingly complex WWRC population profile served by WWRC resulting from Order of Selection, presents unique challenges – see Characteristics Section of this Self-Study for more details. Clarity of WWRC's role and scope within the VR system, enhanced (pre)admissions, rehabilitation team, and community support system business processes, combined with DARS/DRS partnerships for joint program planning and shared accountability for consumer outcomes, have been strategies employed to address this challenge and minimize the impact.
A case study of the success of these strategies is shared in a video released by the parents of a WWRC training program graduate and in a related podcast produced by the WWRC Foundation on behalf of WWRC. Alex is a person with high functioning autism, who now works in the IT industry. His dad is a guest on the show and discusses a book he has written about his son's experience in vocational rehabilitation and at WWRC. Click here to hear the story "A Journey of Inches."
The Standard 2 Accreditation Self-Study Subcommittee finds WWRC in compliance with current COE objectives and standards, with the most critical change related to administration and operation of Occupational Advisory Committees. Existing and projected strategies to address identified challenges are in process.
Evidence of compliance with COE Standard 2 will be verified through staff interviews, student interactions, team member observations and review of Self-Study materials, and file/document/record audits, as indicated.
Additional Self-Study Exhibits
The following supporting documentation and Key Contacts for Standard 2 (composite) are provided to supplement hyperlinks integrated within this narrative.
Name/TitleCampus LocationEmailPhone NumberAmy Blalock, Admissions & Marketing DirectorBirdsall-Hoover Medical/Administration Building, Admissions OfficeAmy.Blalock@wwrc.virginia.gov(540) 332 - 7052James Hall, CWDD DirectorR.N. Anderson Training Building, Vocational Training Office James.Hall@wwrc.virginia.gov(540) 332 - 7222Kerry Krause, Accreditation & Licensure SpecialistR.N. Anderson Training Building,Kerry.Krause@wwrc.virginia.gov(540) 332 - 7227