Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

The State of State Vocational Evaluators: A National Study

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

The State of State Vocational Evaluators: A National Study

Article excerpt

Many of the founders of the profession of vocational evaluation were employed by state vocational rehabilitation programs (VR). Their first meeting was hosted at a state-operated facility in Georgia, and other states soon followed (Hoffman, 2008). Mike Ahlers, former President of the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA) and the Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals (VECAP), has noted that "The founding membership included many state employees, as does the current membership" (personal communication, January 17, 2011). To date, however, there has been no examination of the employment practices of state VR regarding vocational evaluators, and only one study (Thomas, 1989) has compared vocational evaluators with rehabilitation counselors (RC) who work for VR. This paper discusses the definition of vocational evaluation, the roles and functions of vocational evaluators, the current climate of VE, and reports a national survey of VE professionals.

Contextualizing Vocational Evaluation

Vocational evaluation (VE), originally known as work evaluation (Hoffman, 2008), has experienced several redefinitions, usually in conjunction with variations in the perceived roles and functions of vocational evaluators. The current definition of VE, which was developed by the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA), is as follows:

A comprehensive process that systematically uses work, either real or simulated, as the focal point for assessment and vocational exploration, the purpose of which is to assist individuals with vocational development. Vocational evaluation incorporates medical, psychological, social, vocational, educational, cultural, and economic data into the process to attain the goals of evaluation (Dowd, 1993).

This definition implies that VE is a methodical approach that uses specific tools to measure factors affecting an individual's employability. However, the definition remains vague, to give individual professionals the flexibility to vary methods and tools in the design and delivery of a VE. The definition is an encompassing description of a process that can be implemented in numerous ways; it does not limit the scope of the process to specific procedures and tools. Vocational evaluation, therefore, can be shaped to meet the needs of the client. A potential disadvantage of the vagueness, however, is that it allows ambiguity and significant variation in the process, to such a point that VE may begin not to look like VE anymore. Therefore, it is important to identify the processes that exist in VE to assess actual variability in the professional identity and characteristics of vocational evaluators.

Roles and Functions of Vocational Evaluators

The rehabilitation literature includes studies of vocational evaluator roles and functions (Coffey, 1978; Hamilton & Shumate, 2005; Leahy & Wright, 1988; Pruitt, 1972; Taylor et al., 1993; Taylor & Bordieri, 1993). The key roles and functions identified in all six are provided in Table 1. Although these six studies collectively specify 36 roles and functions, only seven of the roles and functions (counseling, behavioral observation, administration of instruments, occupational/career analysis, case management, and professionalism) are shared. This suggests two possibilities. Either the roles and functions have changed over time, or variability exists among respondents in their perceptions of the roles and functions of vocational evaluators. Thus there may be notable differences in how VE is perceived and practiced.

The Thirtieth Institute on Rehabilitation Issues (30th IRI; 2003) identified 11 paradigm shifts presented in Table 2. The shifts were in the following areas: the role and functions of the vocational evaluator, the VE process; the VE setting; and the length of a VE. The importance of contributory underpinnings becomes evident: recognition of individualization; an emphasis on client empowerment; promotion of universal design to maximize accessibility; and accountability for cultural considerations. …

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