Progressive Employment: Learning Collaborative


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Learning Collaborative



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What is the Progressive Employment Learning Collaborative?

The Progressive Employment Learning Collaborative (PE LC) brings VR practitioners and researchers together in a cross-state forum to solve problems, identify and apply solutions, and measure outcomes and results through research and evaluation activities. The PE LC promotes peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge and ideas, identifies disparities and implementation barriers, and identifes solutions for State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies implementing the model. The Learning Collaborative approach increases communication, enhances PE model replication, encourages problem solving, and inspires strategies for sustainability.

Read more about the PE LC. 

Progressive Employment Learning Collaborative

The progressive employment learning collaborative brings members together in a cross-state forum to solve problems, identify and apply solutions, and measure outcomes and results through research and evaluation activities.

State VR Agency Members include:

Training State VR Agencies and CRP’s Technical Assistance Research and Fidelity Knowledge Translation Evaluation


PE LC Structure

The basic components of the Learning Collaborative include: 

  • 2 to 4 meetings per year;
  • regularly scheduled monthly telephone/videoconferences;
  • on-site, phone, training and tehnical assistance from ICI staff; and,
  • wrap around research and evaluation embedded in activities.

PE LC Members

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

Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation:

Diane Dalmasse (Director), Hugh Bradshaw, Nathan Piper 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), Janet Drudik and their teams lead the PE effort in Nebraska. The PE 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.


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) and her team leads the PE effort in Maine. 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.


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:

Angel Hale (Director) and her team leads the PE effort in Oregon. 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. 

In August 2021, the  Scale-Up Progressive Employment  project team welcomed four state vocational rehabilitation agencies who joined the learning collaborative to implement PE. Read their statements below to find out why they are implementing PE in their states.

Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services Division 

Kentucky Career Center“Presenting the Progressive Employment model alongside the McDowell Work Readiness/Work Experience program will give us the needed structure, vocabulary and credibility to engage staff, employers, and most importantly VR consumer’s interest to participate.”

Missouri  Vocational Rehabilitation 

Missouri Dept. of Education“Progressive Employment will help to promote a better understanding of the middle-skills labor market and employer needs, and how to gain access to work experiences and middle-skills jobs that allow for career pathway opportunities.”

New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation 

NH Dept of Education“The philosophy of PE that "everyone is ready for something" strongly resonates with what we believe at NHVR. We want our agency to have the tools to provide the right services for ALL participants and businesses we work with. Adopting the PE model will enrich the program, make us more diverse and allow us to provide more individualized services.”

New  Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired

NJ Commission for the Blind“One way we would like to use this model is to develop an internship or work-based learning program for college students, as well as expand opportunities for new graduates. The Progressive Employment Model is a wonderful way to open new opportunities and experiences for CBVI consumers and perspective employers, particularly in more professional positions.”

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 PE job placement and development. Click the links below to access the archives of virtual conferences in this series:

Additional Resources

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