Disability Employment Awareness Month and Brandon’s Big Career Day at WWRC as we celebrate International Podcast Day
Meet Brandon Stees and hear how VR is using its Training Centers to deliver Pre-Employment Transition Services with special guest Jessica Stehle and Matt Luther plus Cherie’s National Clearinghouse Update.
Singer: VR Workforce Studio.
Announcer: VR Workforce Studio. Inspiration, education and affirmation at work. Welcome to another episode as we open up the VR Workforce Studio to champion the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation from individuals with disabilities.
Client 1: Listen to our amazing stories.
Client 2: Feel the joy and share in inspiration.
Announcer: You’ll meet the champions of business of industry.
Employer: I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that some of our best employees have disabilities.
Announcer: And hear from the VR professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping individuals with disabilities go to work. Now here’s the host of the VR Workforce Studio, Rick Sizemore.
Countdown: Begin countdown.
Announcer: Along with Executive Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation, Anne Hudlow.
Anne Hudlow: Welcome to episode 60. What a celebration.
Rick Sizemore: That’s right Anne. We have your two favorite neighbors on the 2018 calendar. International Podcast Day on September 30th and October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. A time everyone is getting more involved in the disability employment conversation and celebrating the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The 2018 theme this year is America’s workforce empowering all. And that is exactly what we do on this podcast.
Anne Hudlow: We’ll of course have links to lots of resources including the official poster from DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. That’s a free download by the way. You can get the link to the poster along with our contacts and all the information that we discuss on today’s episode in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com.
Anne Hudlow: Brandon Stees our guest on the big inspiration showcase today with Jessica Stehle and Matt Luther who are all here for the big Career Day and of course Cherie Takemoto’s National Clearinghouse update.
Rick Sizemore: Well Anne I can’t think of a better way to celebrate International Podcast Day and Disability Employment Awareness Month than by talking with today’s big inspiration showcase guest, Brandon Stees. Of course he’s a young man with a disability who helped Wilson kick off our very first Pre-ETS. Now that stands for pre-employment transition services or Pre-ETS Career Day. We welcome Brandon and the statewide coordinator for Pre-ETS Jessica Stehle who’s here to talk us through what Pre-ETS is and how Career Day is being harnessed to respond to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act. Along with Matt Luther, a VR counselor who helped us with our very first Pre-ETS Career Day here at Wilson Workforce.
Anne Hudlow: Brandon, Matt and Jessica we thank you for being here today.
Jessica Stehle: Thank you.
Matt Luther: Mr. Rick. How are you today?
Rick Sizemore: How did you get interested in this Pre-ETS Career Day?
Brandon Stees: So there’s this guy named Bret Harte. He told me about this particular thing and he was like “Yeah you should do this, it would be fun, you get to hang out with people.” And yeah it’s fun.
Rick Sizemore: Where are you from?
Brandon Stees: I’m from Harrisonburg Virginia.
Rick Sizemore: Harrisonburg Virginia. What do you do in your life in Harrisonburg?
Brandon Stees: Well I live there.
Rick Sizemore: Yeah. Are you in school?
Brandon Stees: Yes I go to Harrisonburg High and I am going to be a sixth year senior.
Rick Sizemore: Wow. So have you given any thought to what you might want to do after high school?
Brandon Stees: Yes. I would like probably go to Blue Ridge first and then see what’s there and then transfer to JMU. I’m going to try to get a PHD in history.
Rick Sizemore: Do you like history?
Brandon Stees: I love history.
Rick Sizemore: Okay. Are you doing a lot of history things in high school?
Brandon Stees: I took a couple classes when I was a freshman in high school, took world history. Then when I was just a regular senior I took U.S. and Virginia history.
Rick Sizemore: Awesome. Well you’re on the campus of Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center and you’ve been participating in Career Day. What have you been doing today?
Brandon Stees: So I did one shadow experience, I did the stock one. It was really cool because I got to do many things like folding pans, I got to do throwing out an order type of a thing and yeah it was fun.
Rick Sizemore: What are you going to be doing this afternoon?
Brandon Stees: We have the cool one. Yes.
Rick Sizemore: So what’s the cool one?
Brandon Stees: I get to be in the kitchen.
Rick Sizemore: Oh you get to be in the kitchen.
Brandon Stees: Yeah.
Rick Sizemore: All right. Awesome. You think you’re going to enjoy that?
Brandon Stees: Yes.
Rick Sizemore: Have you had discussions as part of your school or with Mr. Harte about what you want to do once you finish up school?
Brandon Stees: I’m trying to remember when we did that but yes we definitely did have a conversation about what I would do after high school.
Rick Sizemore: And what is that?
Brandon Stees: They thought like for instance get a job somewhere something to do with history so I’m like dressed up as like a historical person and act out one historical figure, that would be very cool to do.
Rick Sizemore: What historical figure do you want to be when you do this acting?
Brandon Stees: James Madison.
Rick Sizemore: James Madison. True to the university there in Harrisonburg, right?
Brandon Stees: Yes.
Rick Sizemore: Well let me turn the conversation over to Jessica Stehle. Welcome to the podcast.
Jessica Stehle: Hi, thank you for having us here.
Rick Sizemore: You’re the Statewide Coordinator for Pre-ETS services for Virginia DARS. Tell us about what you do and how that led to this experience today here as part of Career Day.
Jessica Stehle: Yes, so my role is to help the state be providing pre-employment transition services. And this is a relatively new set of services for students with disabilities and it’s helping them to really have experiences and opportunities to learn more about themselves and the world of work, different career pathways, how to become more independent so that when they finish school they are more prepared for life after school and getting started with whether it’s going into post-secondary education or training or going into a job that’s going to lead them down a career pathway where they can achieve economic independence. Really just helping to set students up for success. And so my role is to work with our DARS counselors who are providing the Pre-ETS services and all of our community partners like the school systems and different other agencies that are supporting similar initiatives as per yet so that we can make sure that we’re just all working together to better help students achieve more success after school.
Rick Sizemore: We are throwing around some acronyms here WIOA or W-I-O-A, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act which amends the Rehab Act of 73 and regulates all the work we do in vocational rehabilitation. From that WIOA we hear this Pre-ETS or pre-employment transition services and there are five required services. Maybe you could talk a little bit about what those services are.
Jessica Stehle: So the first one is job exploration counseling. And that one is to help students start to identify different career interests that they have and learning about the labor market and career pathways as well. So it’s that introduction to career exploration and there’s a lot of different ways students can participate in that. And today at Wilson Workforce, the Pre-ETS Career Day is one way to start to explore different careers and jobs. And then we have something called work based learning experiences and so that also ties in today, it’s where students get to be more hands on and so they get to go whether it’s shadow someone who’s doing a specific position that they’re interested in or have an informational interview or even get some hands on experiences trying different job tasks. So those are all examples of work based learning experiences which are really valuable to support that informed decision making for your future.
Jessica Stehle: And then we also have counseling on what they call post-secondary education and training opportunities. So it’s helping students learn about the vast different opportunities to achieve more education or training after someone finishes high school so that they can get started on a career pathway that’s going to help them become more economically independent. And really we’re looking at supporting not just getting one job and you’re in that forever but like how do you grow from that and what are different career pathways and training needed and stackable credentials so that people can continue to grow professionally.
Rick Sizemore: This all seems so exciting because it’s helping young people like Brandon begin to explore and plan for the future. So today you got a lot of different experiences. We heard about your shadowing in materials handling but Jessica what other kinds of shadowing experiences are going on here on campus?
Jessica Stehle: So I had the privilege of participating with two students who got to shadow an officer and a lieutenant at the police department.
Rick Sizemore: Oh wow.
Jessica Stehle: Yes that was really exciting. They learned a ton about not only what those individuals do on the police force here but also different opportunities within the law enforcement industry and helping them even learn what are things that they could be doing now to start to build skills, learn more about the field for them to make sure this is something they really want to get into. Like going right alongside with their local police department or help you get certified in CPR, that’s something that’s required if you’re an officer. So that was fantastic.
Jessica Stehle: We had people that were doing grounds keeping, people that were doing custodial services, we have students that participated in food services as Brandon said. HVAC, auto mechanics. So a lot of different areas that was … It’s been super awesome because the students were able to choose what was interesting to them.
Rick Sizemore: Well our podcast is all about disability employment and the success stories that invoke rehab. This vocational rehabilitation training center campus offers the ultimate place to see a lot of different kinds of jobs and to experience a lot of occupational types. It’s hands on. I heard you use that term. Hands on, you know that’s an important way that younger people learn. Brandon today you had this hands on experience, was that better than looking at a YouTube video?
Brandon Stees: Yes.
Rick Sizemore: How is it different and better?
Brandon Stees: Well because if you’re on YouTube you’re just using your eyes to watch. But it’s really cool to use your hands to do things.
Rick Sizemore: What are you going to cook this afternoon? You got any idea?
Brandon Stees: I don’t know, just what’s out there. I really don’t know.
Rick Sizemore: OK. Well I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun, we have on average about 36 students in that kitchen and they’re leaving here and going to work. So a lot of people have found a really good career track through the food service, into the food service industry and in culinary arts. Matt Luther welcome to the podcast.
Matt Luther: I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Rick Sizemore: And you are a transition counselor in a whole new role now that we’re experiencing pre-ETS beginning to advance these activities to help younger people. What’s your take on the activities going on here today?
Matt Luther: I think like you had already touched on, the hands on experience I think Brandon said you know watching a video isn’t as good as involving all of his senses. Actually tasting it, touching it, seeing it, seeing the actual work environment helps I think tremendously. Do you agree there Big B?
Brandon Stees: Yes.
Rick Sizemore: All right well Jessica and Matt both, what did it feel like to see Brandon fully engaged in career exploration?
Jessica Stehle: Well it’s been exciting to see Brandon and all the students like we said before get that hands on experience and really as they are trying out different jobs tasks, figuring out “Oh wait, I have a question about how did you get into this field.” Or ‘If this happens, if I have to deal with a difficult customer what do I do?” or “I’m not sure how to use this piece of equipment. I didn’t even know I had to do that.” Brandon was talking about some inventory equipment he was using earlier and so it’s been cool to see the students learn more about what a job really entails and then to see the questions that pop up as they’re having those experiences. And again it’s so important because it’s supporting that informed decision making process, getting the information they need.
Rick Sizemore: Right. If you’ve had the experience, you make a much better decision about your own career path.
Jessica Stehle: Exactly.
Rick Sizemore: And Matt what was it like to see, what’d you call him Big B? Big Brandon.
Matt Luther: Yeah, I think that’s what’s been fascinating for me. Big B. I met him last night. First time.
Rick Sizemore: He’s a Hamburglar.
Matt Luther: Yeah he seemed kind of quiet. I went over and said “Hey Big B.” The next thing you know we hit it off. We’ve been talking and I think being a chaperone seeing his social skills, seeing how he interacts with other students, how mature he’s been, how polite, respectful. And then last night he’s talking about food service, he was having a snack of a hamburger so then I called him the Hamburglar. I bet he makes a hamburger today in food service. I don’t know if he’s ever made one. Maybe that’s kind of scary, I don’t know but-
Brandon Stees: I don’t know about that.
Matt Luther: See but that’s another opportunity for him to try something hands on and get more information. You never know what you can do to try.
Rick Sizemore: Brandon as you’ve gone through today how would you rate these activities in helping you learn more about the career pathway that’s out there for you?
Brandon Stees: Well if you’re going to say a number I would say 10.
Rick Sizemore: Alright. So it’s helpful.
Brandon Stees: Yeah it’s really helpful.
Rick Sizemore: Okay. Tell us about this hat you have on and for you who are listening to us today, JMU. You got a JMU hat on. Tell us about that.
Brandon Stees: So this JMU hat goes way back. Definitely I had it for I don’t know, many years. My dad works there. He teaches tuba there. My mom works part time at JMU, teaches a web and tech class. My brother is now in IU is a JMU alum. And so I guess we’re all JMU Dukes.
Rick Sizemore: You got the Duke family here right.
Brandon Stees: The Duke family.
Rick Sizemore: Well today’s events, they’ve helped you learn something about yourself. What would you say that is?
Brandon Stees: Definitely like the hands on. I really like that concept, saying “Yeah, this is what I’m doing and with my hands.” It’s really cool.
Jessica Stehle: So another valuable experience about this opportunity has been the ability for students to experience being away from home. So Brandon’s only been away from home one other time. So he’s been able to have that experience, gain a little bit more independence and we have a lot of students where it’s their first time away from home and so that ties into the workplace readiness training and developing independent living skills and just getting a feel for becoming more responsible. Students were required to wear pants and closed toe shoes to participate in the activities today. So it’s making sure that they came prepared. So it’s just building a lot of soft skills that are important for work, for being successful in any training or education program. And then also just for life in general.
Rick Sizemore: Matt, how many folks did you bring up?
Matt Luther: Yeah so I transported four students.
Rick Sizemore: You’re part of a whole team of people. So how many of these Pre-ETS participants do we have today?
Matt Luther: Today I think we have 22 students, six chaperones supervising the 22 students along with the Wilson Workforce Center staff.
Rick Sizemore: Seems like everyone’s been fully engaged. Brandon what would you say to someone, a friend of yours who was thinking about coming to a Career Day?
Brandon Stees: You should do this. I mean it’s really fun, you get to do fun things, you get to hang out, you get to some do shadowing and doing things with hands on.
Rick Sizemore: OK. Jessica has the day so far been able to meet your goals as a statewide coordinator to begin engaging voc rehab and this group of people that you’re now serving?
Jessica Stehle: Definitely, yeah this is very exciting for us because this is the first time we’ve done this and we’re seeing how the students are very engaged. They’re learning more about these different career fields that they thought on the surface they were interested in and this is really helping them to get a better picture of what it would be like to embark on a career pathway in a field like recreational therapy or food services. And so it’s also helping us to figure out how can we expand this so that more students can participate in an experience like this. And how do we use this to help students take the next step. So this has just been a taste. And we came here yesterday and we’ll leave today but we already have a ton of students that are interested in coming back for the program here at Wilson which is a 10 day program where they can have even more hands on experiences to really learn more about a few career areas that they’re interested in.
Rick Sizemore: So this is the first step.
Jessica Stehle: Exactly.
Rick Sizemore: Wonderful. What would you say to a young person who was thinking of trying a Career Day?
Matt Luther: Well I think Brandon said it best. They come here, they’re a little nervous at first. We give them a little positive support and encourage them to take a chance, try some things and then when they start to you know build rapport with the staff, feel more comfortable, now we’ve created a monster. I can’t get the guy to stop. He’s going to be a chef I think the next time I see him taking on Bobby Flay, I don’t know.
Brandon Stees: I don’t know either.
Rick Sizemore: Final thoughts Brandon.
Brandon Stees: It’s fun, I like it, it’s fun. That’s all.
Rick Sizemore: All right. Matt, final thoughts.
Matt Luther: Yeah I’ve had a great time. I think for some of the chaperones it’s been a little bit of survival but you get to learn a lot when you transport four young adults in a car about three hours and then you get to spend the night with them and everything. Yeahs so us older people had a little bit of trouble hanging with these young guns but making friends like Brandon makes it all worthwhile, really makes you rethink why we do what we do and the value in what we do.
Rick Sizemore: Yeah. Jessica final thoughts and maybe leave us with any thoughts you have about where we’re headed in terms of this statewide program reaching out to thousands of young people to help them decide about their careers.
Jessica Stehle: Yes this has been a fantastic experience. As Matt mentioned it’s been great to see. When the students first came some were just feeling a little bit more shy and reserved and now we’re seeing them comfortable and their personalities blossom and really seeing them get engaged in different types of discussions and thoughts about their future and realizing that “Hey this is something I could do and these are the steps I need to take to help me be successful.” And then in terms of the Pre-ETS program in general for Virginia we just see this as a fantastic opportunity to promote those services and those experiences that students really need to propel them in a positive trajectory. So we’re excited about this partnership and how to expand this.
Rick Sizemore: Jessica Brandon and Matt nice to have you on the podcast today. We’ll have contact information for all of our guests in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com.
Jessica Stehle: Thank you.
Brandon Stees: Rick.
Rick Sizemore: Well it’s time for Cherie’s clearinghouse update from RSA’s National Clearinghouse for Rehabilitation Training Materials. Welcome Cherie.
Cherie Takemoto: Thank you.
Rick Sizemore: Always good to hear from you, what’s new at the clearinghouse?
Cherie Takemoto: Well before I start with the clearinghouse I wanted to just say how delighted I was to hear how tickled Brandon is, to visualize how he’s going to be working in the future.
Rick Sizemore: He’s a great guy.
Cherie Takemoto: Yes. And things are different with WIOA. And no one can imagine life without an iPhone but iPhones have only been here for about 10 years. And hopefully there’s going to come a time with WIOA making the VR agencies devote so much to this pre-employment transition services that everyone’s going to visualize people with disabilities leaving school and going straight to work just like Brandon does today.
Rick Sizemore: That’s awesome, isn’t it?
Cherie Takemoto: Yeah. So today I want to spend most of my time talking about a very nice set of resources from the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center or WINTAC.
Rick Sizemore: We’re very excited because Rachel Anderson and Betsy Hopkins from WINTAC will be with us on next month’s episode. So let’s talk about WINTAC.
Cherie Takemoto: Okay. So they have a whole set of pre-employment transition services. There’s an overview for folks who aren’t quite sure what pre-employment transition services are or who can’t remember those five mandatory services that they have to provide. So it gives you laws, regulations, policies, even frequently ask questions for folks who have asked RSA can you please explain this to me. So it’s really nice. I really like their literature review because there is an annotated bibliography for each one of those five required Pre-ETS activities. The resources links to WINTAC resources and they’re are quite numerous as well as federal resources and other external links. So it’s just a nice place to go.
Cherie Takemoto: Speaking of WINTAC they also have resources for community rehabilitation providers. Since these providers may also not be familiar with Pre-ETS and the fact that many states are funding services from them. So the folks who go there and can act like they know all about what Pre-ETS is. Just a little bit of crib notes and they’ll be all ready.
Rick Sizemore: Well that’s one of the things our listeners continue to say about your report is all in one place, they have ready access to this information that you provide if you’re interested in disability employment, vocational rehabilitation or just want to better understand the disability employment conversation. So we were so excited to have you involved.
Cherie Takemoto: Thanks and we spent a lot of time putting resources out there so we love it when people enjoy the resources. On that community rehabilitation provider avenue, Maryland has put a whole suite of forms and information for community rehabilitation providers to use when they want to get reimbursed for services. And Montana has some nice things for youth and families to understand what this new set of activities are. And then finally I just wanted to end with some workforce GPS folks at the Office of Disability Employment and Training at the Department of Labor. They have a whole set of youth with disabilities resources links that I’ve shared this week.
Rick Sizemore: Well that’s fantastic. As we move in to National Disability Employment Awareness Month always excited to hear about those resources and especially what’s going on at the clearinghouse.
Anne Hudlow: Cherie thanks for always keeping us up to date on the latest information, resources and news on VR. Such a pleasure to have you on our team.
Rick Sizemore: Till next time we’ll enjoy reading and accessing the clearinghouse.
Cherie Takemoto: Thanks.
Anne Hudlow: Rick it looks like you’ve got a very busy fall schedule.
Rick Sizemore: That’s right Anne, we’re working on an episode to continue with National Disability Employment Awareness Month next time. We meet David Dillon who tells us about his career pathway to Eastman Chemical and working for the company who built part of the arrow that won the gold medal in archery in the Olympics. And we’re super excited about our trip out to Oklahoma City, we’ll be recording an interview with Rachael Anderson and Betsy Hopkins from WINTAC on their top tips and suggestions for VR agencies implementing WIOA.
Anne Hudlow: Now Rick why would an employer want to hear that?
Rick Sizemore: Well you know we talk about Wilson Workforce and workforce credentials. And I think it’s important for employers interested in disability employment to know we’re working on skill gains and the type of credentials that helped fill that pipeline for business and industry. So the more they know about what we’re teaching, the more they can think about how they want to continue their workforce and how they might want to work with Wilson Workforce and Vocational Rehabilitation.
Anne Hudlow: And you’ll be at CSAVR’s fall conference in California in October.
Rick Sizemore: Anne I’m super excited about going out to Long Beach California CSAVR, we’ll visit with all of our friends from around the country and get those also important updates from folks like Steve Wooderson on how Vision 2020 is evolving, all of the cutting edge practices that VR agencies are implementing around the country. And of course hear from folks like Cathy West Evans in the [Ned 00:25:43] and Danni Guest and all the great things she’s doing to share the success stories of vocational rehabilitation. So we’re all geared up for that. We’ll bring you some updates after the conference about some of the sessions and some of the cool things going on in VR.
Anne Hudlow: Well that all sounds really exciting Rick. Can you tell me about the DOL newsletter?
Rick Sizemore: Well I was blown away. Last week I got an email from our agency public relations office and it was a forward from a newsletter that came out of the Office of Disability Employment under the Department of Labor. They have a newsletter, we have a link to it in our show notes, the newsletter’s called ODEP News Brief, Driving Change, Creating Opportunity. Right in the middle of the front page of this newsletter is a link “Learn about Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.” You open that link and it’s a great story that they put together about apprenticeships, about reaching out to young people, about workforce innovation and opportunity and how the comprehensive centers around the country like Wilson Workforce are really making an impact with young people and helping create career pathways for them into business and industries. If you have a chance, check out the newsletter. And again special thanks to all of our friends out at the Department of Labor and ODEP for including us in their recent newsletter Driving Change, Creating Opportunity.
Rick Sizemore: Well Anne as we finish up today special thanks to Deb Ruh and the Global Impact Today Radio Network for their support. International Podcast Day is very special to us and Deb’s been such a part of the success we’ve achieved in reaching others by including us on the Global Impact Today Radio Network. Her producer, Doug Forrester, good friends putting out a lot of good podcast episodes dealing with workforce and the national perspective on employment and particularly disability employment in our case. So thank you as well as part of International Podcast Day. You and the foundation for your help and support bringing all this together so we can share these courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.
Anne Hudlow: Well it is an honor Rick. Thanks so much but we appreciate being a partner with you all and supporting your programs.
Anne Hudlow: We thank you for being with us for another episode of the VR Workforce Studio. Special thanks to all of our partners in podcasting for help with today’s show. Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities, CBS health, The Jessie Ball-Dupont Fund, Virginia Manufacturers Association, Dominion Energy, The Valley to Virginia Grant, The Hershey Company and the Community Foundation.
Rick Sizemore: Again thanks for joining us. Don’t forget to visit vrworkforcestudio.com where you can sign up for our e-mail alerts. We’ll let you know every time there’s a new podcast episode posted on the site. You know it means the world to us that you join us to learn about the exciting things that going on in VR in here at Wilson Workforce. If you’d like to get more involved with the show visit us at vrworkforcestudio.com. Well until next time. I’m Rick Sizemore.
Anne Hudlow: And I’m Anne Hudlow with the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.