The Progressive Employment Model


What is the Progressive Employment Model?

The Progressive Employment (PE) model is an employment strategy with an emphasis placed on how VR business relations and job placement personnel interact with employers. PE is predicated on a dual-customer philosophy, making information about business engagement key to better serving VR consumers in finding work experiences while ensuring employer needs are optimally met by the VR program. The PE model is fundamentally based on the premise that businesses should be partners and clients of VR for the process to work most effectively.

Progressive employment:

  • Believes that everyone is ready for something 
  • Embraces that small success leads to further success 
  • Provides flexibility and creativity based on each person or employer’s situation 
  • Ensures low risk for both the employer and the participant 
  • Eliminates the need for consumers to be “job ready”


PE as a Dual-Customer Model

VR Consumer Focused Components:

  • Adoption of the “Everybody is Ready for Something” Approach: Work experiences boost confidence, increase motivation to complete VR, and introduce employers to potential future employees. Early work experiences provide vocational evaluation information while increasing motivation for consumers.
  • Full array of work experiences: These include low and high dose strategies such as job tours, mock interviews by employers through to 6-week work experiences and internships. 
  • Focus on jobseekers with intensive pre-work needs such as those with multiple significant disabilities, criminal justice involvement, behavioral disabilities, and poor work histories.
  • Rapid Engagement in Real Life Work Settings with a reduction on “job readiness” assessments and evaluations. 

Employer Focused Components:

  • Creating a “business as customer” delivery system: Engagement with employers is characterized as a sales approach that seeks to serve the business’s current and future employment needs.
  • Employer Risk Reduction Options that include options for liability and worker’s compensation coverage for employers and sources for stipends.
  • Employer Tracking Database: An ever-expanding employer database is maintained that includes employer specifics, and their levels of availability for providing work experiences. 

PE Model Fidelity

Model Component

Fidelity elements

Liability and workers’ compensation insurance for trainees

  1. Mechanism for providing liability and worker comp for trainees in lieu of employer need to provide the same, or equivalent method of coverage

Dual customer design


  1. Employment staff negotiate directly with employers
  2. Regular contact between employment staff and employers participating in VTPE
  3. Business Account Manager role focuses on employer outreach, not VR caseload

PE as a team approach with emphasis on rapid engagement.

  1. Regular “Jobsville” team meetings focused on communication and coordination between employment staff and VR counselors
  2. Team credit for successful placement
  3. Consumers meet with employment specialists close to time of IPE signing

Focus on high risk or difficult to place consumers

  1. Typically includes 10% or less of all VR consumers served by agency (higher percentage for sub-case loads, such as transition)

Mechanism for set-asides or training offset funds

  1. Funds for VTPE training offset separate from VR counselor case management funds

Data tracking tools for PE

  1. Consumer 911 case services linked at client level with VTPE data forms
  2. Employer database with all contacts documented

View a presentation describing what we have learned from the PE model evaluation and replication to date.  

What is Unique about the Progressive Employment Model?

  • For VR Systems: The PE team approach emphasizes greater employer interaction and responsiveness to employer needs, and more rapid work engagement for consumers. The model requires a more team-focused approach to VR service delivery to businesses as clients. 

         Team Focused Components include:

  • A Team Approach to Service Delivery that includes the jobseeker, employer, counselor, employment specialist and a business account manager. The employment specialist has greater autonomy than usual in creating work experiences based on consumer interests.

  • Rapid Communication of Labor Market Intelligence in which all teams share information across jobseekers and employers for the expressed purpose of being able to identify matches and opportunities.

  • Disaggregation of Rehabilitation Caseload Dollars from Work Experience Placements: Funds for VTPE are separate from VR counselor caseload so that necessary rehabilitation services do not compete for dollars with early work experience placements

           Contact us to learn more about the success of the model for Vermont’s VR system.

  • For Employers: PE is “no risk, low-risk” approach to accessing and interacting with job candidates.

PE Model Replication and Learning Collaborative

In collaboration with the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), the Institute for Community Inclusion is engaged in an exciting research activity to replicate and evaluate the Progressive Employment model (PE). The learning collaborative will allow the replication of this model in other state VR agency settings to study the impact on employment outcomes for people with disabilities. The basic components of the Learning Collaborative include: 2 to 4 in-person meetings per year, and regularly scheduled monthly telephone/videoconferences; on-site, phone, and email TA from Vermont DVR and ICI staff; and, wrap around research and evaluation embedded in activities.

The participating state VR agencies are: Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Maine Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Oregon Commission for the Blind, and Nebraska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation:

Diane Dalmasse, Director and Hugh Bradshaw, Client Services Manager, and their teams originated the VTPE model in a small rural state. VT employment specialists and business account managers focus attention engaging and relationship building with local small businesses. VT DVR believes that VTPE offers a series of placement options geared to the skill level of the individual and needs of the business, for example company tours, job shadows, and short-term work experiences. VT DVR has eliminated the idea of “job ready” to state that “everyone is ready for something” and moves evaluation and assessment into real work settings.

View Mathematica's findings from a preliminary impact analysis.


Meet you Where You Are This model addresses the needs of Nebraska VR clients seeking employment and businesses looking for qualified applicants. Rapid Engagement Activities: Business Account Managers develop partnerships with employers so that these activities can be offered: •Employer Mock Interviews •On-the-Job Evaluations •Job Shadows •Company Tours Examples of individuals who might benefit from Rapid Engagement: •Youth and young adults •Supported employment cases •Individuals with psychiatric & cognitive disabilities •Individuals with a corrections history Employers Willing to Participate in… •Mock interviews increased to 137 between August 2016-June 2017 •OJEs increased to 454 between August 2016-June 2017 •Job Shadows increased to 330 between August 2016-June 2017 •Company tours increased to 321 between August 2016-June 2017 Working in Nebraska (WIN) Meetings: These are regularly scheduled meetings and it is the intent that everyone on the team attends. Partners are invited to attend in effort to coordinate outreach to businesses. Meeting Agenda Topics: •Successes •New Cases •Update on Existing Cases •Labor Market Information •Challenging Cases •Presentation from an Employer

Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation:

Lindy Foley, Director. The VTPE focus in Nebraska is in the area of “rapid engagement” and has been renamed “The Meet You Where You Are” Model. For clients in the replication model, the average time from application to work experience placement is about 34 days – usually before the IPE is formalized. Nebraska VR has hired 4 Business Account Managers (BAM) responsible for employer engagement and who carry an “employer caseload.” Nebraska VR is the only Learning Collaborative participant that provides employment services directly.

View Nebraska VR's Pathway to Employment Video Series. 



View highlights from the 2018 working paper.



Employer Information: Looking for your next generation of workers? [Image of two employees in a carpentry setting] Caption: Helping employers meet workforce needs. As you look toward your next generation of workers: •Would you like the opportunity to introduce interested young people to your business? •Would you like to try out potential employees at no risk or cost? If you answered YES to any of the above, the Maine Department of Labor’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) would like to tell you about a new initiative to introduce Maine youth to local career opportunities Maine’s Progressive Employment Program meets the needs of employers and Maine youth with Disabilities by matching them to activities such as: •Job Tours: Let youth see what your business is all about! •Interviews: Offer a young job seeker an opportunity to practice interview skills or better yet, let them interview you to find out more about you and your business. •Job Shadows: Invite a youth to see jobs at your business in action. •Work Experience: Provide a work experience to help a youth gain skills with wages and workers’ compensation paid through DVR. •On-the-job Training: Hire a young person and have some initial training costs offset. DVR works with selected youth to identify strengths, interests, and career goals and then through contracted agencies locates employers that offer career opportunities in the young person’s field of interest. Sometimes Progressive Employment activities lead to a job offer, but there is no expectation that you do so.

Maine Bureau of Rehabilitation Services:

Libby Stone-Sterling, Director. Maine BRS serves 10,000 consumers per year in a predominately rural state. One third are transition-age youth and the VTPE replication is specifically targeting this population. BRS relies on CRP’s for job placement and are actively working with CRPs as part of the effort. There is one BAM for transition students in the state, and his primary responsibilities are coordination of team meetings about VTPE and contact with larger employers and big box stores.

Listen to Maine BRS's radio interview about the success of the Progressive Employment Model for their youth with disabilities. 

View Maine's presentation on Progressive Employment and Work-Based Learning with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates [PPT].




PROGRESSIVE EMPLOYMENT WORK EXPERIENCE TRAINING PROCESS What steps are involved in the process? 1.Agency refers client to Progressive Employment 2.Agency & client identify placement options geared toward client’s skill level & interests 3.Agency/CRP identify potential employers who could provide informational interviews, company tours, job shadow experiences, etc. 4.Agency/CRP pitch client to employer for 3-6 month agency-sponsored work experience placement 5.Agency/CRP present work experience agreement form to employer for signature (Includes job duties, goals, objectives, VRC and client signatures) 6.Agency/CRP provide coaching and follow- along services to the client 7.Agency provides employer with check-ins, Disability Awareness/Etiquette Training, etc. How does this process benefit the client? •Builds confidence •Strengthens work skills •Develops resume •Increases professional network •Develops interpersonal and customer service skills •Career exploration in short term placements

Oregon Commission for the Blind:

Dacia Johnson, Director. Oregon CFB works in partnership with businesses throughout Oregon who are committed to hiring/retaining VR consumers who experience vision loss. The main VR office in Portland is piloting VTPE for blind and/ or low vision transition-age youth consumers who have barriers to maintaining employment. Oregon CFB has one Business Account Manager who works to establish meaningful relationships with businesses and host meetings pertaining to VTPE job development and placement. 

View an Oregon Commission for the Blind consumer success story. 


View highlights from the 2019 working paper.



Monthly Job Development Virtual Conferences: 

The ICI in partnership with Vermont DVR,  hosted monthly job development virtual conferences about topics specific to those who directly interact with businesses at participating VR agencies. The virtual conferences covered an array of topics that address opportunities and successes in VTPE job placement and development. Click the links below to access the archives of virtual conferences in this series:

Additional Resources

Presentation (2019, PEQA): Progressive Employment: Transporting from VT & Testing in NE, ME & OR

Presentation (2019, VECAP): Progressive Employment – Assessment Practices for Upskilling/Backfilling Individuals Within Career Pathways [.DOC]

Journal Article (2018): Development of the Progressive Employment dual customer model for vocational rehabilitation

Research Updates (2018): Progressive Employment Research Updates

Introduction to VTPE & learning collaborative participants 

Informational VTPE webinar 

VTPE Fact Sheet

Descriptive paper published by Vermont DVR (2012)


The Progressive Employment Model Replication and Evaluation study is funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. 

Pub Type