The purpose of this study is to provide training to vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors on working with businesses and evaluate the training’s effectiveness.
- Will participation in a training intervention improve VR counselors’ knowledge and self-efficacy about working with businesses?
- Will participation in a training intervention increase VR counselors’ use of practices consistent with the dual-customer approach?
- Will participation in a training intervention increase VR counselors’ interactions with businesses?
- Will participation in a training intervention increase the percentage of consumers served by a VR agency who achieve employment?
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.
McDonnall, M. C. & Cmar, J. L. (2021). A Mixed-methods assessment of the impact of an agency-wide business development training for rehabilitation counselors. Journal of Rehabilitation, 87(2), 47-55.
Online Course: National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision. (2021). Advice for VR Professionals: Evidence for Effective Meetings with Employers. [Curriculum].
Online training: Improving Business Development Skills: A Training for Rehabilitation Professionals
McDonnall, M. C., Cmar, J. L., & Tatch, A. J. (2020). Importance of agency context for long-term effectiveness of a business development training for rehabilitation counselors.Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 53(1), 1-16.
McDonnall, M. C., & Sui, Z. (2019). Effectiveness of a business development training for rehabilitation counselors who work with consumers who are blind or visually impaired. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 63(1), 25–34.
This research project is sponsored by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant #90RT5040). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this webpage do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.