Acquiring and Using Labor Market Information in VR Agencies: Who, What, and How
Typically, vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) use labor market information (LMI) as part of the counseling and planning process with VR clients. LMI may be used at any stage during the VR process. Many agencies are reworking traditional counseling processes to incorporate the use of such tools as the Career Index Plus (TCI+) to introduce consumers to LMI as quickly as possible.
In this section of the toolkit, the focus is on exploring how different types of LMI may be used by various members of VR agencies.
Using tools like TCI+ can empower the client. Additionally, these tools can make counseling more efficient for the VRC, as they provide easy-to-use information about the labor market and employer benefits, as well as assessment tools, all in one spot. This is especially helpful in VR agencies with limited numbers of business specialists (or none at all on staff). For example, North Dakota Division of Vocational Rehabilitation developed an model for training VR clients to effectively interpret and use LMI. The podcast below provides and overview of their successes and lessons learned.
VR counselors may search available job postings (through the TCI+) to determine which employers may be hiring and the types of positions available. Counselors can contact these employers directly, or can ask their Business Specialist to make the employer contact.
The use of LMI occurs in numerous ways and places within a VR agency, depending on the user and the user’s goals. It also varies depending on whether the agency has:
- Dedicated Business Specialist positions working full-time with businesses, or assuming job placement responsibilities
- Contracted externally for business relations and job placement services
- Business Specialists reporting to a statewide business manager or supervised by field managers
- Formally incorporated LMI usage as part of its work processes
- Adapted the Talent Acquisition Portal (TAP) as part of its work processes
When Business Specialists are available in a VR agency, their work often goes beyond determining available positions through online LMI sources. They may also explore employment trends in their state or region.
Business Specialists gather their own LMI through direct employer contacts, and through contact with business affiliations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management. They may also work with other state agencies, such as the Workforce and Economic Development Office, to identify opportunities.
Ultimately, Business Specialists use all sources of LMI to advise VR counselors and clients, and to inform their business outreach efforts in agencies where they are tasked with job placement responsibilities.
In agencies with Business Specialists, there are a variety of communication methods for sharing LMI with VR counselors:
- Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation uses a “Jobsville” model in which VR counselors share client career goals and Business Specialists provide feedback on current opportunities in local businesses.
- Business Specialists can have a standard place on the agenda for all regular agency staff meetings.
- Emails from Business Specialists to VRCs can share current job opportunities in the area.
- VRCs can refer consumers to a specific Business Specialist in agencies where Business Specialists do job placement.
- Automated systems with alert functions can notify VRCs of job opportunities and make Business Specialists aware of clients newly seeking employment.
Middle management’s use of LMI will vary as to whether or not managers carry a partial caseload or cover for a caseload during counselor vacancies. For those carrying or covering a caseload, refer to the information above on VR counselors. For other middle managers and supervisors, there needs to be enough of an understanding of LMI and any LMI tools used (TCI+, O*NET, etc.) to provide appropriate supervision and management of staff to encourage the use of LMI in the counseling relationship. However, middle managers do not necessarily need to become LMI experts.
The stronger the middle manager’s understanding is of labor market information in the local area, the more valuable that person can be to VR leadership in shaping the strategic direction of the agency. This LMI knowledge may encourage strategic business partnerships for customized training opportunities, such as internships, apprenticeships, and other work-based learning initiatives. In other cases, it may lead to partnerships for employment for VR clients.
Leadership’s role in LMI is fairly consistent across VR agencies. LMI is often used by the leadership team in its strategic planning, including the development of sector strategies, and for determining agency resources devoted to LMI, such as making LMI training available.