The Role and Function of Certified Vocational Evaluation Specialists

By Hamilton, Michelle; Shumate, Stephen | The Journal of Rehabilitation, January-March 2005 | Go to article overview

The Role and Function of Certified Vocational Evaluation Specialists


Hamilton, Michelle, Shumate, Stephen, The Journal of Rehabilitation


During the second half of the 20th century, the practice of Vocational Evaluation in North America evolved into a distinct professional specialty (Shumate, Hamilton, & Fried, 2004). The profession emerged in response to a demand within the field of vocational rehabilitation for improved vocational assessment measures that did not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. New techniques and instruments were devised that included realistic and in-depth assessment methodology to facilitate the exploration of clients' vocational potential. The use of real or simulated work as primary assessment tools for determining clients' potential for successful performance and adjustment in a specific occupation remain an essential and distinct characteristic of vocational evaluation today (Pruitt, 1986; Thomas, 1999).

Soon after vocational evaluation began to emerge as a separate discipline, a number of research efforts were initiated to identify the specific skills, knowledge and assessment techniques used by vocational evaluators in practice (Egerman & Gilbert, 1969; Nadolsky, 1971; Sankovsky, 1969; Spieser, 1967). However, most of the research describing vocational evaluation, with specific domains of knowledge, role, and function, has occurred since the 1970s (Taylor, Bordieri, Crimando, & Janikowski, 1993).

In one of the initial efforts to define vocational evaluation, Pruitt (1972) utilized a task analysis approach to examine the role and function of 45 vocational evaluators. The results identified 67 job tasks grouped into 7 major job function domains. The seven domains included: (a) evaluation, (b) counseling and interviewing, (c) training, (d) administration, (e) occupational analysis, (f) communication and relating, and (g) research and development. Shortly afterward, The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA), and the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA) cosponsored a monumental three-year study entitled the Vocational Evaluation Project (1973-1975). Seven task forces were formed to explore and develop standards for work evaluation services. Confusion ensued regarding the delineation of specific roles and functions of vocational evaluators, primarily due to the diversity of work settings and targeted clientele. The study concluded that there was "... lack of a clear conceptual ideological statement relative to the role and function of the evaluator" (VEWAA, 1975, p.123).

Coffey's (1978) doctoral dissertation may be the earliest comprehensive survey of the essential competencies of vocational evaluators. From an original list of 2,500 vocational evaluator skill, knowledge, and ability statements, Coffey's resulting questionnaire retained 175 items grouped into 9 categories. Asked to rate the 175 statements from essential to most essential on a 5-point rating scale, the response from Coffey's sample of 116 vocational evaluators, educators and graduate students yielded a mean rating of 4 or better on 95 competency statements. In a subsequent analysis of the original data, Coffey, Hansen, Menz, and Coker (1978) identified the top 20 competency statements that received high priority ratings from 92% of the respondents. The highest ratings were in the areas of Working Relations (interagency relationships), Analysis and Synthesis of Evaluation Data, and Communication.

Despite early research efforts delineating specific roles and functions of vocational evaluators, there remained significant divisions between rehabilitation counselors and vocational evaluators regarding their specific scope of practice (Emener, McFarlane, & Parker, 1978). While most authorities on the subject agree that considerable overlap exists between the two professions, vocational evaluation retains distinct core functions and competencies separate from rehabilitation counselors (Sink & Porter, 1978; Sink, Porter, Rubin, & Painter, 1979; Gannaway & Sink, 1979; Sigmon, Couch, & Halpin, 1987). …

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