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 Funded by the United States Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

The Effectiveness of an Evidence-Based Approach to Rehabilitation Counselor Training on Working with Businesses

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to provide training to vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors on working with businesses and evaluate the training’s effectiveness.

Research Questions

  1. Will participation in a training intervention improve VR counselors’ knowledge and self-efficacy about working with businesses?
  2. Will participation in a training intervention increase VR counselors’ use of practices consistent with the dual-customer approach?
  3. Will participation in a training intervention increase VR counselors’ interactions with businesses?
  4. Will participation in a training intervention increase the percentage of consumers served by a VR agency who achieve employment?

Study Summary

An important part of a VR counselor’s job is interacting with businesses to generate employment opportunities for consumers. Although this is an essential job function, many counselors are uncomfortable, or even fearful, about interacting with employers. Existing job-development training curricula tend to focus on a sales approach, prompting counselors to “sell” their consumers to businesses, an approach that many counselors are uncomfortable with.

Through this research project we will develop and provide counselors with evidence-based training on working with employers. Working in collaboration with the Texas Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services, NRTC staff will utilize best practices from the Texas training curriculum and empirical results from past research to develop content for the new training program. This new training will use the dual-customer approach, which encourages VR counselors to treat employers as “customers” of the VR agency by taking the time to understand their business and help them meet their staffing needs.

Through the training we hope to increase VR capacity to engage with businesses and help counselors gain confidence with this activity. Specific areas targeted for improvement include: foundational knowledge and self-efficacy about working with businesses, use of practices consistent with the dual-customer approach, number of interactions with businesses, and percentage of consumers served by the agency who achieve employment.

The NRTC has partnered with four VR agencies to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the new training approach with practicing VR counselors who work with consumers who are blind or visually impaired. Seeking to determine the long-term impact of the training on counselor behavior, data will be collected over an extended period of time. Participants will be divided into two groups: One group will receive the intervention first, and the other group will receive the training approximately eight months later and will serve as a control group prior to receipt of the training.

Expected Outcomes and Benefits

This project will result in a new, evidence-based curriculum that can be used to train VR counselors for the blind to work with employers. The training will be available both online and in person.

Project Outputs

McDonnall, M. C., Crudden, A., & Steverson, A. (2018). Impact of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Changes on agencies serving consumers with blindness and low vision. Journal of Rehabilitation, 84(3), 39-45.

McDonnall, M. C., & Sui, Z. (2018). Effectiveness of a business development training for rehabilitation counselors who work with consumers who are blind or visually impaired. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0034355218796276

McDonnall, M. C. (2017). Working with business: Counselor expectations, actions, and challenges. Rehabilitation Research, Policy, and Education, 31(2), 135-145. doi:10.1891/2168-6653.31.2.135

Principal Researcher

Michele McDonnall, m.mcdonnall@msstate.edu