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Committee Report | February 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 11:40pm

SED Seal                                                                                   




TO:                                       Adult Career and Continuing Education Services (ACCES) Committee

FROM:                                Kevin G. Smith

SUBJECT:                           Vocational Rehabilitation Recruitment, Training and Staff Development

DATE:                                  January 28, 2011

STRATEGIC GOALS:       Goals 3, 4 and 6



Issue for Discussion

The Board of Regents will be provided information on training and staff development opportunities provided to staff in Adult Career and Continuing Education Services - Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) program area to support the delivery of quality services to individuals with disabilities.

Reason(s) for Consideration

To inform the Regents and obtain their support for activities necessary to meet staff development and training needs of federally funded VR personnel.

Proposed Handling

This item will come before the Adult Career and Continuing Education Services  (ACCES) Committee at its February 2011 meeting.

Procedural History

In November 2008, ACCES-VR (formerly the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID)) presented to the Board of Regents a plan to realign its recruitment initiatives with its training activities and form the Recruitment, Training and Staff Development (RTSD) Unit as part of the Designing Our Future Vocational Rehabilitation Initiatives.  In November 2009, the Board of Regents was provided with an update on a plan to assist counselors to meet the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) standards and recruitment strategies to address projected staffing needs.

This report is a follow-up to the November 2009 presentation and will focus on the key activities ACCES-VR has undertaken to support professional development, training and recruitment of VR staff.

Background Information

ACCES-VR is entirely federally funded and supports counseling services for individuals with disabilities. We have been attempting to sustain staffing levels necessary to provide quality VR services to its consumers and meet the performance measures set by RSA.  Staff training and focused recruitment strategies are key activities to achieving a quality and diverse workforce in the twenty first century, especially in these times of diminishing resources.

The RTSD Unit is responsible for the professional development of all VR staff and recruitment of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) staff.  ACCES-VR also partners with other state agencies such as OASAS, OMH and OPWDD to jointly train staff on key issues for persons with disabilities.  In addition, the Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Center (TACE) provides resources for various topics which are coordinated through the training unit.

With a training grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education, RSA, RTSD coordinates the following activities:

  • Staff development and training opportunities
  • Comprehensive System of Personnel Development – maintenance of professional standards
  • VRC recruitment activities


The current RSA grant is $138,673 annually for federal fiscal years, 2010 – 2015.

Staff Development

Training is an important part of the development of qualified staff to meet the employment needs of people with disabilities.  The RTSD Unit provides supports for paraprofessional, professional and management staff to pursue education and training in order to meet professional certification requirements as well as to learn new skills to help improve the quality of services and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.  Staff participates in a variety of training and professional development opportunities that lead to completion of college degrees, professional certifications and basic skill development.

An annual training needs assessment is conducted to identify staff training needs and interests.  With input from managers and the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), a staff training program is developed.  ACCES-VR provides approximately 75 training programs annually to VR staff.  The needs assessment survey results are also shared with the Region 2 Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Center (TACE).  TACE is the federally funded program responsible for assisting state VR agencies in providing training to VR professionals.  TACE offers a variety of trainings annually.  In addition, the Training Unit collaborates with other State agencies and disability organizations to provide disability and/or systems trainings to staff; for example, the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS).  Training has also been provided on ACCES-VR policies and procedures as well as on the Case Management Systems (CaMS) updates.

Staff is also provided financial support through the RSA grant to participate in training courses taken to increase their knowledge and skills in vocational rehabilitation.  Over the past five years, 45 staff members have participated in certificate, non-degree, undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate degree courses.

The training courses and opportunities offered during the year allow VR professional staff to obtain the credits necessary to maintain their professional certification, specifically Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC).  Training conducted by staff from ACCES-VR and TACE provides continuing education credits for CRCs, including those needed to meet the Ethics certification requirement.  ACCES-VR has taken advantage of video-conferencing training opportunities as much as possible to facilitate training opportunities and to keep cost down.

Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD)

The Rehabilitation Act as amended requires every state to develop a CSPD designed to ensure an adequate supply of qualified rehabilitation staff for the vocational rehabilitation program.  A key requirement is that VR counselors meet specific professional standards.  Since New York State does not have State certification or licensure, the national standard was selected, which is a CRCC certificate or a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or counseling and notice of eligibility to sit for the CRCC certificate examination.

In 2007, to respond to the federal RSA standards, ACCES-VR surveyed counseling staff and determined 67 VR counselors did not meet the national criteria.  In collaboration with staff from the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM), a plan was developed to provide financial and administrative assistance to VR counselors to meet the standard.  The plan included a review of counselor credentials to determine CRC eligibility and costs for tuition, fees and books for required coursework.  As a result, the number of staff needing to meet the standard has been reduced to 25, of which 17 will need to pursue a full masters degree and eight will need specific coursework to meet the standard.  Staff will need to begin their course work by 2013 and complete all coursework by 2018.

Recruitment and Retention Strategies

Of critical concern is the national shortage of qualified VR counselors.  We project that ACCES-VR will lose over one-third of its VRCs during the next five years through   retirement, promotional opportunities and other attrition.  This concern is compounded by the closure of three of the six master level Vocational Rehabilitation Education graduate programs in New York State in recent years.

In order to address these issues, ACCES-VR launched several initiatives to entice professional rehabilitation counselors and graduate students to consider employment in New York State.  Those activities included college recruitment visits and paid internships.

Between 2006 and 2008 staff from ACCES-VR and OHRM visited approximately 50 colleges in close proximity to New York State and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in southeastern United States.  The benefits of working in New York State were shared with Program Directors and students in graduate Rehabilitation Counseling programs.  They were also advised of the internship opportunities and application process for the Civil Service exam. 

A paid internship program was created to provide second-year graduate students an opportunity to perform their internship in one of the ACCES-VR field offices.  This initiative allowed students to complete the requirements for their degree with the State VR program, while allowing ACCES-VR to train and recruit the future workforce.  The fact that students were paid was an extra incentive for them to work with ACCES.  More than 60 students have participated in the internship program since 2006, with 24 being hired as VRCs.  Due to fiscal considerations, the college visits and paid internships have been significantly reduced.  In light of the national shortage, coupled with the fact that an estimated 50% of VRC staff could retire in the next five years, some facet of ACCES recruitment activities should be resumed if we are to continue to meet consumer employment needs in the future.

Timetable for Implementation

With Regents support, the described activities will continue to proceed.