Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Selected Factors Associated with Quality Employment Outcomes

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Selected Factors Associated with Quality Employment Outcomes

Article excerpt

Research suggests employment rates among people with disabilities have remained constantly low (i.e., between 29%-34%) over the past fourteen years (Harris & Associates, 1998; U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). Subsequently, there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of interest and attention directed to the need for the improvement of the state vocational rehabilitation system's capacity to achieve employment outcomes, particularly among consumers with significant disabilities. Much of this interest and attention has been stimulated by two factors. First, public reaction and legislative mandates highlight the need for increased focus on the qualifications of personnel who provide vocational rehabilitation services. In fact, demands from consumer groups, advocates of people with disabilities and the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) initiatives promoted the establishment of specific requirements to ensure a fully qualified workforce of existing and future personnel in state vocational rehabilitation agencies (Rehabilitation Act Amendments, 1992, 1998). Second, empirical evidence suggests that specific variables are related to successful rehabilitation outcomes. The results of a series of replication studies demonstrate a positive relationship between counselor education, years of experience in the state vocational rehabilitation system and employment outcomes, particularly for consumers with significant disabilities (Szymanski, 1991; Szymanski & Danek, 1992; Szymanski & Parker, 1989).

Szymanski and Parker (1989) found that counselors with master's degrees in rehabilitation counseling were not only more effective but were also more cost-effective in serving consumers with significant disabilities than their counterparts with bachelors and unrelated degrees. Specifically, these counselors achieved higher competitive closure rates and spent fewer case services dollars on non-competitive closures. Further, this superiority was maintained through ten years or more of work experience with the state vocational rehabilitation agency. Szymanski's (1991) extended study provided further evidence to support the hypothesis that counselors with master's degrees in rehabilitation counseling or related master's degrees had higher competitive closure rates for consumers with significant disabilities than counselors with unrelated degrees who worked with similar consumers. This study also suggested that consumers with significant disabilities who were served by less experienced counselors (i.e., less than 10 years) with unrelated bachelors or master's degrees had less successful employment outcomes.

Similarly, Szymanski and Danek (1992) found counselors with master's degrees in rehabilitation counseling had higher rates of competitive outcomes for consumers with significant disabilities when compared with counselors with unrelated bachelors or master's degrees. Additionally, they found counselors with unrelated degrees were more cost-efficient in service provision to these consumers. Although these researchers acknowledged the need to include more adequate rehabilitation outcome measures, the addition of quality employment outcome measures is not included in recent literature reviews. Furthermore, since the establishment of the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) requirements, little evidence has been offered to demonstrate that state vocational rehabilitation agencies' investment in this initiative are paying off with improved quality employment outcomes.

Successful placement of individuals with disabilities is an important goal for rehabilitation counselors because of the high unemployment of people with disabilities and the complex process of rehabilitation. Likewise, job satisfaction has been noted to be an important counseling goal for individuals with disabilities. One theory of job satisfaction is based on a person's evaluation of whether one gets what he/she wants from a job. …

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