Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Vocational Evaluation in the 21st Century: Diversification and Independence

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Vocational Evaluation in the 21st Century: Diversification and Independence

Article excerpt

It has been postulated that the profession of vocational evaluation has lost its usefulness and is dying (Hilyer, 1997; Parker & Schaller, 1996; Wehman, 1988). With the advent of outcome-based rehabilitation and the need for shorter, cheaper services, it is thought that the formal, comprehensive process of vocational evaluation is outdated and should be replaced by informal vocational assessment and quick screening processes that rely on interviews, self-report inventories, or fast, computer-based screening systems (Fewell, 1997; Hilyer, 1997; Lustig, Brown, Lott, & Larkin, 1998; Meade & Hoine, 1995; Parker & Schaller, 1996).

Although there is a reduction in the number of vocational evaluators in some states (Hilyer, 1997) due to a decline in referrals to evaluation from traditional vocational rehabilitation agencies, the service has gained popularity and increased referrals from other rehabilitation, education, human service, and private markets (Fewell, 1997). That is one reason why the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA) has attempted to develop more creative means for encouraging professional membership of vocational evaluators from non-rehabilitation settings. This current downturn in the use of vocational evaluation services by some vocational rehabilitation state agencies may be only temporary, yet the effect is now challenging evaluators to continue to develop and refine new markets, thus ensuring the profession's independence and viability as a service that has value to society as a whole (Sawyer, 1987; Thomas, 1994). Society is becoming more complex, and information regarding how individuals can best identify their preferred life role is of use to everyone, including individuals with disabilities.

This article will explore the future direction of vocational evaluation services in the United States over the next 10 to 20 years. It will examine evaluation from the changing perspectives of philosophy, service directions, technology, populations, and referral sources. Although many of the ideas presented are already being discussed in the field, or implemented on a limited basis, general acceptance and routine application are not yet the norm.

A Philosophical Shift

Within rehabilitation and transition service delivery models, concepts of empowerment (informed choice, self-determination), and career development have given consumers more influence in decision making and greater control over planning their own futures. Information is empowering and vocational evaluation provides consumers with the resources to make "informed choices." These philosophical transformations in rehabilitation are occurring at a time when society is also experiencing changes in the nature of employment and the value of work (Gray & Alphonso, 1996; Ryan, 1995; Szymanski, Ryan, Merz, Trevino, & Johnson-Rodriguez, 1996). As consumer choice in vocational rehabilitation evolves to more closely resemble the same opportunities for freedom of choice exercised by society as a whole, consumers will ultimately acquire the right to select their own rehabilitation provider and purchase services they prefer for career development and employment. In vocational rehabilitation, this has been referred to as the "voucher" system; in Social Security, it is called a "Ticket to Independence" (Daniels, 1997; VEWAA, 1997). Persons with disabilities have long wanted the opportunity to choose their own services and destinies (Condeluci, 1995, 1996), and this prospect is quickly becoming a reality.

In an effort to become a vital part of this consumer-driven process, vocational evaluation will be marketed directly to the consumer as a valuable career development service (Thomas, 1994). The role as a rehabilitation provider will be de-emphasized in favor of three roles that reflect more accurately the scope of practice of the vocational evaluator. The three roles are: 1) vocational/career expert; 2) disability specialist; and, 3) educator (Thomas, 1997). …

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