Episode 62 of the VR Workforce Studio Podcast:
Ed Owens and vocational training with CVS at WWRC. Meet Katia Albanese and learn about her exciting work with CSAVR and celebrate National Apprenticeship Week with Alan McClain and Jonathan Bibb from the 2018 CSAVR Fall Conference
Speaker 1: We are Workforce Studio.
Speaker 2: VR Workforce Studio, inspiration, education, and affirmation at work. Welcome to anther episode as we open up the VR Workforce Studio to champion the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation from individuals with disabilities.
Speaker 3: Listen to our amazing stories.
Speaker 4: Hear the joy and share in our inspiration.
Speaker 2: We’ll also meet the champions of business and industry.
Speaker 5: I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt, that some of our best employees have disabilities.
Speaker 2: 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 to the VR Workforce Studio, Rick Sizemore-
Speaker 6: Begin Countdown.
Speaker 2: Along with the Executive Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation, Anne Hudlow.
Speaker 6: Four, three, two, one.
Anne Hudlow: Welcome to episode 62 of the VR Workforce Studio. It’s National Apprenticeship Week all across the country. Rick is just back from the Fall CSAVR Conference.
Rick Sizemore: What a cool event. Steve Wooderson shared some exciting news with us at the conference. Let’s take a listen.
Steve Wooderson: Well, this afternoon we will be introducing Katia Albanese. Everybody needs to connect with her, share success stories.
Rick Sizemore: Katia is actually standing by on Skype. We’ll meet her later in the program and hear about some of the excitement on the horizon at CSAVR.
Anne Hudlow: Also on today’s show, incoming president, Alan McClain, joins us with Jonathan Bibb, ACTI’s Director. They talk with Rick about VR, apprenticeship training, and WIOA. Let’s get started with our big inspiration showcase.
Speaker 6: Big, big, big, big, big.
Rick Sizemore: Ed Owens is a vocational rehabilitation trainee from Wilson Workforce. Ed was thrust into the midst of some tremendous excitement as Wilson opened up the newly renovated Anderson Training Building recently, houses the new state of the art Materials Handling Program. As part of the opening we had guests here on campus from a number of the country’s VR training centers, executives from CVS, the local chamber, and many others. Ed was one of the first students to complete training in the brand new CVS mock store. Ed joins us, along with his VR instructor, [Cassie Buracker 00:02:19]. Ed, welcome to the podcast.
Ed Owens: Thank you for having me.
Rick Sizemore: It’s good to have you here. Cassie, welcome to the podcast.
Cassie Buracker: Thank you for the opportunity.
Rick Sizemore: Awesome. Well, we’ll jump right in. Ed, you’re here going through the mock store training for CVS. Tell us the story of what your week has been like, working in the CVS store.
Ed Owens: Actually, it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff, especially about CVS. I’ve learned their three Ps, which are promise, purpose, passion.
Rick Sizemore: Oh, wow.
Ed Owens: Which is their motto, is a path, helping people on a path to better health. Learned all about that, learned about their three As, which is acknowledge, apologize, act … If you get an upset customer you want to follow those three As to the T. Then we learned about their core values.
Rick Sizemore: Can you identify with those values personally?
Ed Owens: Yeah, actually I can. They’re all amazing values. There’s integrity. You always want to stay true to what you are. You want to listen to what you need to do. You want to get those done. You want to be compassionate. You want to collaborate with your team. You want to just be there and help out anyone that you can.
Rick Sizemore: Well, it sounds like it’s been a good week. What types of things have you been doing to develop such a grasp and an understanding in such a short period of time? You seem like a paid spokesperson for CVS.
Anne Hudlow: I was gonna say, there is no script here. Just so everyone knows. He actually bounced that off.
Rick Sizemore: This is coming from the heart. Well, tell us how you learned all these qualities in such a short period of time?
Ed Owens: Besides just videos and Cassie teaching me, I’ve been running through the store, working with some of the other students that are just in the regular Materials Handling Program, having them work with me for helping deal with upset customers, helping deal with customers over the phone, and then the planogram of how to put together the store, how to make sure everything’s in its right place, and then put up the labels, make sure everything’s working properly. That’s pretty much how I’ve done it. It’s been a lot of fun.
Rick Sizemore: Amazing, amazing.
Anne Hudlow: Great. You think you’re gonna feel prepared then, to enter into the real live setting?
Ed Owens: Oh yeah.
Anne Hudlow: Great, great.
Rick Sizemore: Now is that scheduled? Or are you on tap to go out to a local store here and practice what you’ve learned?
Ed Owens: Yes, I am, actually. Next week, I go back to my previous shop site for four days. Then the Monday after, I go to CVS.
Rick Sizemore: How do you feel about that opportunity?
Ed Owens: Honestly I’m ecstatic for it. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed CVS. They’ve always been kind to me and my family. I figure, I might as well be able to help them back out by working with them. Even for the six weeks that I’m there, if I truly do enjoy it as much as I think I will, when I get home I’m probably going to apply for my local CVS and work there with them.
Rick Sizemore: Well, I know CVS is looking for people who have that spirit of customer service that you obviously have. Cassie, what’s it like working with Ed in this CVS store?
Cassie Buracker: He grasps everything so quickly. He, as you can tell, just wants to do very well, and has a very good idea about how to do all of that. It’s been moving very smoothly and very quickly.
Rick Sizemore: Tell us what it was like setting up the mock store for the training experiences we provide for individuals with disabilities?
Cassie Buracker: It was very interesting because we had merchandise that we didn’t get to have before. All of our students actually jumped in and helped us to get it set up. They were very excited to set up the CVS store. They were kind of chomping at the bit, to get in there. We actually have some other students in regular Materials Handling class, that have already let us know from Monday, that they want to come back through and do the CVS class for one of their internships as well.
Anne Hudlow: Taking myself back to when I was interning, and interviewing, and those types of things, it’s just so nerve wrecking. I would think if you have this type of opportunity with a fantastic partner in CVS Health, that would be reassuring for the students. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Cassie Buracker: We actually let them at the beginning of it as well, that CVS is a very hands-on partner with us. If we have questions, we need help with anything, we can just contact Duane. He is more than willing to help with us out.
Anne Hudlow: We caught up Duane Rohr earlier this week during his visit. He had this to say about the new mock store at Wilson.
Duane Rohr: I thought it looked amazing. I think the staff there has done a great job in merchandising the store and getting the mock pharmacy set up. We’re moving along pretty good here. I think we’re gonna have another hire from your center as well, Rick. I think it’s a great model. It’s helping these students to gain the skills that they need to go to work, whether it be a CVS or any other company in the communities. I think it’s helping these students to gain the confidence they need to go out, and acquire these jobs, and do well with the jobs they’re being placed into.
Rick Sizemore: Dwayne Roar, CVS Health, thank you so much.
Dwayne Roar: Thank you.
Rick Sizemore: He’s been an awesome partner as we fulfill our obligations to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act to engage business, and of course try to fulfill our vision here at Wilson Workforce of being workforce driven. Do you feel prepared to take this on, in a week or so?
Ed Owens: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I feel fready as I can be. This has been just so much fun. I’ve enjoyed the program fully through. Now I get to go to CVS. That’s going to be a lot of fun too.
Rick Sizemore: Awesome. Can you tell us about your disability?
Ed Owens: I was diagnosed around four or five with severe ADHD, later got diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. So throughout my life I’ve had a roller coaster. But I’ve always made the most of it of what I could, tried to act just normal as anyone else.
Rick Sizemore: How has the training here helped you, as a person with a disability, gain the skills you need in order to have that confidence that you talked about having, going into this internship that’s scheduled in just a week or so?
Ed Owens: How it helped out so much, which is just, it’s the best thing for anyone who has confidence issues, is no one here will ever put you down. They’re always there to help you move along, to encourage you that you can do better, that there’s no point where you can’t do it. It’s all just pushing through. Don’t let the bad stuff get to you, just keep pushing through, and keep believing that you will make it. You will.
Rick Sizemore: There are a lot of people who are learning and realizing that individuals with disabilities have the skills and are the answer to us filling the workforce of tomorrow. What advice would you have for someone who is thinking of trying vocational rehabilitation as a way to get a job, if they have a disability?
Ed Owens: Do it, a 100%. If you have a DARS counselor, go to talk to them about it. If you don’t, then try and work to get one.
Anne Hudlow: We do have information in the show notes on how you can find your local vocational rehabilitation agency. Where do you see yourself in the future?
Ed Owens: When I first came in here, I was dead set to, once I got out of here, I’d be either working at an Amazon warehouse, just 5, 10 minutes from my house if I drive or I’d be down in Norfolk working at the dock yards. Now I can actually see myself at a CVS store. I could see myself at a grocery store. No longer am I just bound by, I need to go here. I want to go here. It’s, I have all these opportunities. I don’t have to go three hours away from home everyday just to work when I could just work 5, 10 minutes from home and be there for my family when they need me.
Anne Hudlow: Ed, what’s it like training here at Wilson?
Ed Owens: Cassie, Steve, Sandy, they all always just want us to succeed. They prepare us the best they can. When we get our evaluations, they tell us what we did better, what we can improve on. They just try and give us ideas. They bounce ideas off us, see if one of them matches with us about how to improve it, whether it’s just trying to keep an even pace going. If you’re having a slow work, don’t work as fast as you can and burn yourself out. Try and set a pace that’s higher than what you usually work at but not to where you’re gonna burn yourself out constantly. You want to just steadily improve. They have always been there to help us do that. They give us ideas. They encourage us. It’s amazing.
Rick Sizemore: Well, they’re all about job readiness. It sounds like some great thing’s been going on in that Materials Handling Program, Cassie. Best of luck to you with this new mock store here at Wilson Workforce. Green lights and blue skies to you, my friend. As soon as you get that job at CVS, we want to have you back on the podcast to talk about the entire experience.
Ed Owens: Oh, yeah, I’d be happy to.
Rick Sizemore: Thank you for being here. Thank you for being here today.
Ed Owens: No problem.
Anne Hudlow: Thank you all so much for joining us.
Cassie Buracker: Thank you.
Rick Sizemore: Katia Albanese with Concepts Incorporated worked to support CSAVR’s communication efforts. She joins us from her office in Bethesda, Maryland. Katia, welcome to the podcast.
Katia Albanese: Thank you so much, Rick and Anne, for having me here today.
Rick Sizemore: We were excited to learn from Steve Wooderson that you’ll be involved in spreading the exciting news from CSAVR. Tell us what’s on the horizon.
Katia Albanese: We’re excited for the opportunity to assist CSAVR in the Vision 2020 promotional efforts. We are looking to do, over the next course of several months, is to collect as many best practices and examples of what’s happening out in the states, and to help get that information out, share those details with the rest of the country.
Anne Hudlow: Katia, you were at the Fall CSAVR Conference. What were your impressions?
Katia Albanese: I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Fall Conference and popped in and out of the different meetings and various sessions. I spoke to as many people as would take the time to talk with me, in an effort to really gather as many ideas and content about the wonderful innovative practices that are going on in the states. I found the event so informational. I was so impressed by just the breadth of, and the extent of all of the different effort in the various states, the passion of all the VR representatives, and surveying the disability community and working with the business community, and collaborating with all the different partners, and also just working to inform policy at the federal and state levels. It was very, I was very impressed by the breadth of all of that. That’s really what our job is going to be, is to help promote those stories.
Anne Hudlow: We are very excited to be working with you. We’ll include your contact information in our show notes.
Katia Albanese: Thank you. We’re looking forward to launching a newsletter with CSAVR to help further promote these innovative practices and stories, and to get the word out about all this awesome work that’s being done by VR across the country.
Anne Hudlow: Oh, that’s great. Well, we surely will be looking forward to that newsletter. We thank you for your time, Katia. It’s really been a honor.
Katia Albanese: Thank you so much.
Rick Sizemore: Well Anne, the VR Workforce Studio is really pleased to be involved with Katia and Concepts Incorporated. They are a strategic communications firm that specializes in education and outreach initiatives, with a unique niche for disability employment campaigns. For all the latest on apprenticeships and vocational rehabilitation, be sure and check out the show notes for the National Clearinghouse for rehabilitation training materials. Cherie joins us next month. For all the latest news and information on vocational rehabilitation in our Clearinghouse update.
Anne Hudlow: Rick recently traveled to CSAVR’s Fall Conference in Long Beach, California and had a chance to interview Alan McClain, Commissioner of Arkansas Rehabilitation Services and Jonathan Bibb, the Director the Arkansas Career and Training Institute, to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week. Let’s join them now in Long Beach from CSAVR’s Fall 2018 Conference.
Rick Sizemore: Welcome, both of you, to our podcast.
Alan McClain: Pleasure to be here.
Rick Sizemore: Well, Alan, I want to jump right into the interview with your perspectives on how ARS is moving forward in the era of WIOA.
Alan McClain: Rick, there’s just so many things going on with Arkansas Rehabilitation Services as well as our sister agencies throughout the country. WIOA, true to its name, has provided many opportunities for innovation. It seems as though we’ve just really scratched the surface.
Rick Sizemore: I really view Steve Wooderson and his team as enlightened leaders who have brought Vision 2020 into focus, in a way that is unique in our world, to see that type of living, breathing culture that is so focused on the dual customer, mission driven, dual customer focused. It is an exciting time. What’s your perspective on Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act?
Alan McClain: Well, I think we’re real, great time now to be able to experience WIOA. The system’s changes is happening before our eyes. I think that was the intent of the legislation from pre-employment transition services to engaging businesses at a level they’ve never been engaged in with before with multiple partners doing that. I can’t say enough good about the opportunities that we have. Just to be a part of it-
Rick Sizemore: It’s an exciting time.
Alan McClain: It’s quite an honor.
Rick Sizemore: We’ve worked with Jonathan before he’s been on this podcast and talked about this great facility located in Arkansas. I visited the center. ACTI is a favorite place of mine. We’re gonna get to Jonathan in a couple of minutes. From your perspective, leading one of the states that has a comprehensive center, how do you like to see the center used to further voc rehab and help fulfill the vision of WIOA?
Alan McClain: Certainly, I think we’re really privileged to have a comprehensive center right in the heart of Arkansas, where we can serve individuals who are in residence there, who are there learning trades and skills, but also use it as a center for others to come and develop new skills or be served by us in the wide range of ways that we’re able to use ACTI. Again, there’s just really no end to innovative ideas that come out of that place in ways that we can use those resources to help people with disabilities move into the workforce.
Rick Sizemore: Jonathan, you’re the President of the National Consortium of State Operated Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers. We’ve learned recently that people generically refer to them as the nation’s VR training center. That’s exciting to see. Particularly being here at CSAVR this morning, as we head to session on employment, having opportunity to reflect on the multi-state footprint that we have, and how we are a partner in engaging national business, that’s all tremendously exciting. What is your perspective on the centers in general, coming of age during the era of WIOA?
Jonathan Bibb: Well, I think the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act really provided those opportunities for comprehensive centers to really make a splash nationally. We’re seeing a lot of companies that are looking for a footprint that goes beyond one state. Because we function in a consortium, we’re able to share ideas but also partner with incredible businesses like CVS, in which we can take their model and implement it on several states. We’re also looking at ways in which we can expand within our own states, initially by offering business learning. That’s one of the things that we discussed in our last consortium meeting, well received by Dwayne Roar at CVS, and really fitting in with-
Rick Sizemore: Part of the national system.
Jonathan Bibb: National system, it’s part of their footprint and blueprint for how they’re gonna offer opportunities for people with disabilities, and also to fill the workforce needs.
Rick Sizemore: Jonathan, we just heard from Ed Owens. Now Ed just spent a week at our center in our newly renovated mock store at Wilson Workforce. Tell us about some of the programs, and some of the exciting consumers at ACTI, and what they’re up to these days.
Jonathan Bibb: Course, the CVS mock store has done very well. We are providing opportunities, not only in customer service, but to really grasp the concept of an employer that really cares for their customers. That transcends just CVS. It’s a transferable skill. Arkansas is kind of in a unique situation where CVS’s corporate footprint is not that large. We have had very good success with those that have completed the training, and going into employment in many different pharmacy settings and also retail settings. There’s a lot of opportunities to be gained. CVS is willing to invest, being in on the front end. Really getting those opportunities for people with disabilities in Arkansas is incredible.
Rick Sizemore: Here’s the wild card question. What’s the one thing that President Trump and President Obama, former President Obama, agreed on?
Jonathan Bibb: And the importance of apprenticeship.
Rick Sizemore: I stay away from controversy on this podcast. That’s always a fun question. What’s the, what did they agree on? But they both agreed that apprenticeships are powerful in helping someone who’s not employed meet the needs of an employer, gain some skills. It’s just a perfect type of thing. We appreciate all the work that you’re doing at ACTI with the pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship, as well as our other centers and other workforce organizations.
Jonathan Bibb: Absolutely, it’s a, this is a topic that I’m very passionate about. One of the things we looked at early on is how, that we could tie in with registered apprenticeship, is really a no brainer. A lot of the training programs that we have, have a natural fit. It’s an apprenticeable occupation. It’s really a continuation of the training that we start and the foundation that we have. We’ve even looked at our training curriculum. We make sure that it matches up with registered apprenticeship in the state, on the construction, trades, and welding. That’s offered a lot of opportunities and began pre-apprenticeship training in conjunction with the National Apprenticeship Training Foundation in September of 2016.
Jonathan Bibb: This has been a very successful program, one that was developed by business and industry for business and industry. It really had its hallmarks in that the employers didn’t want to waste a lot of time trying to do recruitment activities for folks that weren’t gonna show up for work and not be prepared. This is a 40 hour pre-apprenticeship. But it’s also like a 40 hour job interview. I think all of us as hiring managers would love the opportunity to have 40 hours to evaluate an individual employee before we brought them in. This gives business and industry that opportunity by utilizing the resources of their registered apprenticeship training provider to provide that evaluation and also give our students feedback on what employers need, what employers want, and the skills and abilities that are going to be needed for them, not only get the job but to stay on the job, and make a career out of it.
Rick Sizemore: You have an exciting new video on pre-apprenticeships. We’ll include a link to that in the show notes here at VR Workforce Studio dot com. Jonathan, tell us about the incredible things that are going on with apprenticeships.
Jonathan Bibb: Well, Karen Brashers is a tireless champion for registered apprenticeship within the state of Arkansas. She’s on the State Workforce Development Board and on several local workforce development boards because of the scope of her company. Early on I knew we needed a partner that could champion what we do. She was very excited to come in, take a look at what we provided, as far as training, and actually look at our students to see if they would be a good fit into registered apprenticeship.
Rick Sizemore: That’s just awesome.
Jonathan Bibb: She believes in it a 110%. We couldn’t ask for a better partner with Karen. Also, the involvement of the Arkansas Apprenticeship Coalition, which is made up of more than just the National Apprenticeship Training Foundation, which is a great partner, but also seven other registered training providers that represent close to a 1,000 employers in the state of Arkansas.
Rick Sizemore: What a footprint.
Jonathan Bibb: Oh, it’s huge, covers the entire state. As a comprehensive training center in Hot Springs, we don’t just serve the Hot Springs area, we serve statewide. So having that large footprint, it really helps with outcomes.
Rick Sizemore: We’ll have a link to that incredible video from ACTI on apprenticeships in the show notes at VR Workforce Studio dot com. Please check that out. Alan, we’re here at CSAVR. You’re moving into a leadership role with them in the upcoming business cycle. What are your thoughts about moving into that important role, leading the CSAVR board?
Alan McClain: Well, it’s definitely an honor to be able to serve in that capacity, and to serve along with the leadership at CSAVR, and at the administrative level as well as the leadership from the other states that I have the opportunity to serve with. I think that’s, the momentum is great with CSAVR right now in terms of the resource they are for the vocational agencies across the country. They do a great job of facilitating the communication that state agencies need in order to do their roles. I believe that the states have so much innovation going on and working so hard to deliver the principles of WIOA that they’re being able to bounce ideas off of each other throughout the country as well as our leadership in D.C. is really important. I think CSAVR plays a really important role with facilitating that information exchange, not only from among each other but also with the regulators, who we need guidance from almost on a daily basis, it seems like. I think that CSAVR can really, really be helpful to my counterparts throughout the country in doing that. So I’m looking forward to being a part of that.
Rick Sizemore: Do you have a favorite voc rehab success story?
Alan McClain: Yeah, I’m reminded of a individual with pretty significant attention deficit disorder that went through a barber school. He tells a story of his parents. Nobody really thought that he was ever gonna amount to anything ’cause he always misbehaving in class or getting kicked out of class ’cause he always said the first thought that was on his mind and never really could settle. He went to barber school and learned how to be a great barber in his community in central Arkansas. His clients love him. I mean, really hit his stride, and really found his groove, exactly what he was supposed to be doing when his whole childhood and early adulthood, he was, couldn’t focus at all. He’s behind the chair, clipping people’s hair, having conversations, talking about politics, and community, and very everything else. People were in line to see him. It’s just fun to hear how he can go from really no hope, no vision whatsoever, to go being one of our clients and being focused on successful employment outcome.
Rick Sizemore: That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Alan McClain is the incoming president of the Counsel of State Administrators for vocational rehabilitation. He leads the Arkansas Rehabilitation Service. We’re so fortunate to have had a chance to talk with you this morning, Alan. Jonathan Bibb, of course, is the director of the Arkansas Career and Training Institute and President of the National Consortium of State Operated Comprehensive Centers. Thank you both for spending some time focusing on VR this morning.
Jonathan Bibb: Thank you, Rick. I appreciate it.
Alan McClain: It’s been our pleasure, Rick.
Anne Hudlow: Hey Rick, that was a great interview. It’s nice to hear so many themes around apprenticeship, business engagement, and WIOA across the centers.
Rick Sizemore: Well, that’s it for today’s show. Anne, I’ve enjoyed being here with you, and Katia, and hearing about the excitement that’s going on all across the country and vocational rehabilitation, and here on campus at Wilson Workforce Rehabilitation Center.
Anne Hudlow: Oh absolutely. There are some great things going on. The WWRC Foundation is ever grateful for the continued assistance that we receive in support of the center.
Rick Sizemore: The center’s appreciative of the Foundation’s help in getting this podcast out to our listeners.
Anne Hudlow: Well, it’s our honor and privilege. Rick, let’s take some time to extend our gratitude to our wonderful partners in podcasting, who have made this episode possible.
Rick Sizemore: Absolutely.
Anne Hudlow: Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities.
Rick Sizemore: Of course, CVS Health.
Anne Hudlow: The Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
Rick Sizemore: Virginia Manufacturer’s Association.
Anne Hudlow: Dominion Energy.
Rick Sizemore: The Valley to Virginia Grant.
Anne Hudlow: The Community Foundation.
Rick Sizemore: We can’t forget the Global Impact Today radio network with Deb Ruh.
Anne Hudlow: Yes, absolutely. CSAVR.
Rick Sizemore: Our new friend, Katia Albanese, with Concepts Incorporated.
Anne Hudlow: Of course, Virginia Voice, all wonderful partners.
Rick Sizemore: Great partners.
Anne Hudlow: We’re lucky to have them, absolutely. Until next time, I’m Anne Hudlow.
Rick Sizemore: I’m Rick Sizemore with the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.