WWRC is plowing through the winter of 2016 with our census near 350, and almost all Center programs are running near or at capacity. We appreciate the constant communication with DRS’s new District Managers and Business Development Managers as we continue to refine our Vocational Training programs. Tracy Topolosky, DARS Fishersville, is continuing her special assignment to evolve service to consumers with medical rehabilitation needs. She is continuing to grow the number of counselors WWRC is working with to provide Medical-to-work rehabilitation therapies
The first three consumers from WWRC to complete the CVS training module as part of the Materials Handling Program at WWRC are now participating in internships with two CVS stores in Staunton, and one in Waynesboro, Virginia. WWRC is coordinating with CVS’s Workforce Development Manager and District Managers through LaPearl Smith, DARS BDM. Everyone agrees that seeing these smiling faces at these various stores is worth all the work that has gone into the DARS initiative to work with CVS. WWRC also offers a special thanks to the consumers Field Counselors, Kim Shepard, Ami Williams, and Nikki Thompson, for their support. According to CVS, there are multiple jobs available across Virginia at their stores and they are thrilled with the startup of WWRC’s training facility, which was donated by CVS to the WWRC Foundation.
WWRC’s Manufacturing Academy
Several students have been selected for WWRC’s “Dream It Do It” Manufacturing Academy. This will open the door to the goldmine for consumers and let them take a look into the world of possibilities that are becoming available in modern manufacturing. The Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) has said that one of the first goals in building Virginia’s workforce is to reduce the interest gaps in these jobs. WWRC’s first Academy is scheduled from May 30 through June 3, with approximately a dozen consumers who have an interest in learning about manufacturing. Jim Leech will be heading up the Academy with support from the entire WWRC Team and our partners in the Field. Consumers will build a fully functioning solar-powered water purification plant using water from WWRC’s lake, and then bottle the water. They will also get lectures and introductory information on manufacturing from Jim, who is a retired engineer with decades of experience in manufacturing in facilities like “The Hershey Company.” Jim also started the Mechatronics Training program at Blue Ridge Community College, and provided training to numerous plants throughout Virginia. He joins the WWRC team to spearhead the Academy and he will build-out the Manufacturing Technology Training program at WWRC through the summer with the first cohort of students to begin around August. Our staff have been busily working with the Manufacturing Skills Institute to get WWRC Instructors, Jim Leech, Steve Sweeney and Dwight Foster, certified to teach the curriculum that prepares students to sit for the national exam and obtain their Manufacturing Technician 1 (MT1) credential. In addition to this, WWRC has retooled its Vocational Evaluation checklist and interest inventory to help guide DRS Counselors in selecting students who are likely to be successful in the MTT program. Finally, it is through the partnership with the Joe Ashley, in the Grants and Special Programs area, that WWRC is able to evolve this program with support of Innovation and Expansion funds, as well as support from the Career Pathways Grant. Part of WWRC’s role, as this program evolves, will be to help others learn techniques and strategies that will enable someone with a disability to be successful in obtaining the MT1 Certification and, ultimately, employment. VMA anticipates that there could be upwards of 60,000 jobs in modern manufacturing in the next couple of years. Lastly, WWRC has been extremely fortunate to benefit from ongoing consultation with our BDM team, under the direction of Dee Dee Batten, the Virginia Board of Workforce Development, and guidance from EO23 and EO46 as this initiative evolves. There could still be a few slots available for the upcoming Academy. Candidates for this pilot must have completed PERT and have some interest in manufacturing. Emily West, newly appointed Project Manager for the Career Pathways Grant, is also involved to support this initiative and help consumers plan for a career pathway.
Blueprint for Direction 2016-2018
WWRC has updated and revised its Blueprint (BP) for Direction for the 2016-2018 biennium. Growth Priorities will leverage and expand on accomplishments to date and continue to evolve and strengthen relationships and collaboration with Agency and workforce partners to realize successful Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) outcomes for Agency consumers who attend WWRC. Emphasis will continue to be given to accountability and process-driven systems across Center operations. In all initiatives, WWRC will seek to build, strengthen, and nurture effective working relationships with
Agency resources including, but not limited to, DARS/DRS District Managers, Business Development Managers, and Rehabilitation/Placement Counselors, as well as with workforce and community partners. WWRC will also continue to collaborate with the WWRC Foundation to leverage resources in support of Center growth priorities. The BP is available for public comment through 2/28 and will be finalized at that time. Please send any comments suggestions of feedback about the blueprint to Rick Sizemore.
Vocational Rehabilitation Workforce Studio Podcast
WWRC’s Foundation publishes the Vocational Rehabilitation Workforce Studio podcast with success stories about Vocational Rehabilitation, focusing on clients, employers and Vocational Rehabilitation professionals. The WWRC Business School has gotten involved, and three students have helped transcribe these podcasts. Their work sets a new standard for efficiency and perfection.
New Counselors Skills Training at WWRC
On February 9 and 10, eleven new counselors spent time at WWRC getting to know the campus and learning about the Center’s Medical-to-Work Rehabilitation program, Workforce Driven Training programs, and the Center’s transitional services. The counselors all said that the highlight of their visit was the consumer-guided tour and to hear the consumer’s prospective on WWRC services.
Thank you so much for the wonderful experience at WWRC this week. It was good to hear about the role of WWRC in vocational rehabilitation, and to see the various programs and the students in action. I’m amazed at WWRC’s progress from when I first visited years ago. It was good then, but so much better for our clients having the skills to compete in today’s job market.
Elaine Chase, CWDP, Alexandria DRS
New Driving Simulator
WWRC has a new Driving Simulator that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of driving services at WWRC. The technological improvements in “driving simulators” have improved to such a degree that they are now becoming readily accepted by professional clinicians. The system has been installed, training was completed on February 10, and simulators are now in use. Clay Huie, Director of Occupational Therapy, is not only hopeful that the simulator will provide valuable, objective information on the driving potential of DARS consumers, but that the simulator will be used as a training tool, as well. The unit is made by “drive safety.”
Rod Early is an engineer working in manufacturing and lives with his family in Staunton, Virginia. In June of 2013, he was involved in an accident while operating heavy equipment causing near fatal injuries that required a prolonged hospitalization and multiple surgeries. His injuries included a ruptured aorta, injuries to his thoracic and lumbar spine, multiple rib fractures, a punctured lung, and a large wound to his thigh that required a skin graft. Following the accident, Rod went through inpatient treatment at UVA to stabilize his medical injuries and then was transferred to HealthSouth to begin his rehabilitation. Near the end of his inpatient treatment, he met Tracy Topolosky, DARS Counselor, who leads the Agency’s efforts to offer services to consumers with complex medical needs. After initial counseling, Rod came to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) for extensive therapy to restore his mobility and increase his independence in functional daily activities.
During his nine months of inpatient and outpatient services received at WWRC from September 2013–June 2014, he participated in both Physical and Occupational Therapy. Rod made substantial gains, particularly in the instrumental activities of daily living, functional standing activities, walking, and balance, as well as overall strength and endurance. He progressed from being able to walk only household distances with assistance and a walker, to walking independently with either a rollator or two quad canes in the home and for limited distances in the community. He also mastered going up and down standard ramps and curbs and gained independence walking up and down flights of stairs safely. His walking speed improved by about 400%, and his distance for walking increased seven-fold.
Partway through this therapy program, Rod’s treatment team began working with him and his employer, Daikin, located in Verona, Virginia, to consider his return to employment. Daikin’s Director of Human Resources, Larry Kroggel, indicated that Rod was a highly valued employee and Daikin would place a high value on his return to work. He had worked for them for 27 years prior to his injury. WWRC Physical Therapist, Kate Baxter, and Occupational Therapist, Sonya Gasser, and Rod made a work site visit to Daikin and provided consultation on modifications needed for return to work. Rod’s parking space was shifted to a new entrance location and a ramp and automatic doors were installed. Daikin purchased a powered utility cart to facilitate travel across the manufacturing floor to various plant locations and purchased a more stable accessible apparatus for Rod to safely climb that would allow him to reach heights necessary for his job tasks working on large scale industrial cooling units. Rod is currently working full time at Daiken and has said that without the services at WWRC he would likely still be in a wheelchair and probably unemployed.