Episode 101 VR Workforce Studio

Registered Apprenticeship for VR Clients and Motivational Interviewing


Rick Sizemore, rick.sizemore@dars.virginia.gov 540-688-7552 @vrworkforce

WWRC Foundation Lynn Harris, Foundation Director, lharris@wwrcf.org 540-332-7542 540-430-4490.

Betsy Civilette, DARS Communications Manager

Alexis Duggan Blog YouTube Adult Daily Living Skills E-Book Purchase Coupon Code: Ms. Duggan

Vicki Varner

Debby Hopkins and Appteon.com
The Institute for Individual and organizational Change 

Casey Jackson and IFIOC Contact

Carol Dobak’s interview and why she is so passionate about VR

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021  

Erik K. Johnson Podcast Talent Coach

Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation and the National Employment Team

ABLEnow, 844-NOW-ABLE (1-844-669-2253), able-now.com

National Clearinghouse for Rehabilitation Training Materials
Heather Servais hservais@neweditions.net

Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

Rehabilitation Services Administration  

National Rehabilitation Association

Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy

Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center  540-332-7000 or 800-345-9972

George Dennehy with the Goo Goo Dolls  George Dennehy

Lead On Lead On VR Music Video featuring George Dennehy and the Voices of Rehabilitation
Click Here for the Music Video

Lead On Lead On Karaoke – Free Downloadnow you can sing the VR National Anthem with a professional soundtrack from your phone.  Click Here for the Free Karaoke Video

Special thanks to CVS Health, The Hershey Company and CSAVR and the WWRC Foundation for this support of the VR National Anthem

Voice Talent by Steve Sweeney

University of Wisconsin Stout’s Vocational Rehabilitation Institute Webinar on Podcasting and VR

Resources from the National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM)

The National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM) is your go-to resource for vocational rehabilitation information, technical assistance, and training. The following resources include a sampling from the NCRTM. These webinars and supplemental materials on Motivational Interviewing can be used in group or self-study training.

Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR)

The NCRTM partnered with OVR to package a video series they created for inhouse training for use by others.

Additional Motivational Interviewing Resources


Singers: VR Workforce Studio

Debby Hopkins: Well, there are so many reasons, but the number one reason is that registered apprenticeship sponsors are looking for you.

Announcer: Four…three..two….one…. VR Workforce Studio, podcasting the sparks that ignite vocational rehabilitation through the inspiring stories of people with disabilities who have gone to work.

Jered Lem:  Tech Support this is Jered speaking how may I help you?

Rose Hilderbrand:  I have a position at Masco Cabinetry.

Alfred McMillan: I’m a supervisor at Sedexo.

Announcer:  As well as the professionals who have helped them.

James Hall:  A job, and a career, you got to look at how life changing this is.

Announcer:  And the businesses who have filled their talent pipelines with workers that happen to have disabilities.

Debby Hopkins:  To help expand registered apprenticeship.

Announcer:  These are their stories.

Megan Healy:  Because there is such a great story to tell about people with disabilities.

Announcer:  Now here’s the host of the VR workforce studio. Rick Sizemore.

Rick Sizemore:  Welcome to episode 101 of VR Workforce Studio. Pleasure to have you with us today. The US Department of Labor has announced that the 2021 National Apprenticeship week will be celebrated during the week of November 15th.  The weeklong celebration allows labor and business leaders, educational institutions, career seekers, and other partners to demonstrate support for apprenticeships and preparing a highly skilled, diverse workforce to meet the talent needs of employers and train Americans for good paying jobs.

Rick Sizemore:  Over the past few years, we’ve seen more and more apprenticeship tracks in vocational rehabilitation. In our big inspiration showcase today, we bring you one of the most inspiring people I know, with a message for VR clients. Debby Hopkins has worked in a variety of capacities and workforce over the past couple of decades, various roles on workforce development, boards and grants. She was instrumental in helping the career pathways for individuals with disabilities grant to establish a number of apprenticeships across Virginia and has now moved into a position which continues to rely on her expertise in establishing apprenticeships. My pleasure, welcome Debby Hopkins, back to the show to talk about the top reasons someone in VR should consider going into a registered apprenticeship. Welcome Debby.

Debby Hopkins:  Hi Rick. I’m so glad to be back. I felt like you’ve kept a seat warm for me since I was last in there.

Rick Sizemore:  Yeah. Debbie’s one of those people I keep on the rolodex. There’s no such thing as a rolodex, but I keep handy in my phone and even though it’s been a while since we talked, we continue to stay in contact on some of these critical workforce issues. Debbie, get straight to the point. Why apprenticeship for someone in vocational rehabilitation?

Debby Hopkins:  Well, there are so many reasons, but the number one reason is that registered apprenticeship sponsors are looking for you. Apprenticeship is one of those areas where employers have decided that they want to build their own pipeline and they have an aspirational goal of a percentage of the jobs that they are hiring in registered apprenticeship, to be from individuals with disabilities. So they are looking for you. There are so many opportunities in apprenticeship today that did not really exist as targeted for individuals with disabilities as they do today. I would like to highlight some examples, Rick. Unless-

Rick Sizemore:  Love to hear them. [crosstalk 00:03:49]

Debby Hopkins:… you’d like to give me… Okay. Great. So…

Rick Sizemore:  I was just thinking, so what are they?

Debby Hopkins:  Well, they’re in any area that you can imagine really. If you start looking at apprenticeship.gov, that’s a fabulous resource that can sort of walk you through some of the industries that are looking for you. One of the ones is information technology. That is where I’m working today with an industry intermediary and we have a focus for individuals with disabilities to help them go forward in careers. Some of them are with apprenticeship sponsors who are employers directly like Lockheed Martin. Some of them are with educational sponsors who are individuals who have a program where they’re training individuals. So an apprenticeship, if you think about it, the United States government is serving as a certification agency, if you want to look at that like that. So most VR clients, probably all VR clients, will obtain skill certifications from various industry associations. And they will certify that you have met the requirements to be competent and have earned a credential or a certification that says you can do this skill.

Debby Hopkins:  And within that occupation, you may have numerous skills that are certified. For example, when Rick and I worked very closely together, we worked with the Hershey company and the Hershey company loved Wilson’s program that gave certifications and industrial manufacturing technician. That is a job that they’re certified for the rest of their life. So how does that happen? Because it is a job certification, it needs to have structured on the job training. So a very outlined what it is that you’re going to learn on the job with hands on through mentors. So you’re assigned a mentor to help you get through the on the job training and the educational or related technical instruction is developed.

Debby Hopkins: What do you need to understand from the theory to do that job? What do you need to know about safety? What do you need to understand about the job that you’re going to do that you would normally learn in a classroom, or an online environment that is structured and it is developed to relate to that occupation. So you have a formal program certified by the federal government, that would have on the job components outlined, a mentor to help you do the hands on, and then an outlined theory or educational instruction that helps you understand both. So this is a program that has all of the elements so that you are going to be walked through a formal structured process until you are competent in the job.

Rick Sizemore:  Now, Debbie, it seems like to me, if I were a VR client and I’m thinking about, okay, how can I get into an industry that I would see employers in this role of providing all this access and training and the mentoring as an investment on the part of business and industry. And that would give me greater confidence that business is putting some skin in the game.

Debby Hopkins:  Yes, absolutely. And through a vocational center, you actually start that from the center itself. So vocational rehab centers, as Rick taught me so much with the Wilson Workforce Center in Virginia, that is really gets its reputation from having strong industry relationships. So from the very beginning, the programs are based with industry input and industry says, “This is what we need on the job. Here’s the competence we need –  design your training curriculum and industry exposure for the jobs we have available.” This is what we need. So that’s where it starts. And then for each of the areas in vocational rehab, where you have industry engagement, which has to be in every single one of them. So for those industries then, they come back and they stay aware and they engage some often coming and giving presentations to classes and so forth. And that’s where the students get the exposure and the curriculum stays current.

Debby Hopkins:  So yes, industries are making that connection in the very beginning. For those who are apprenticeship sponsors, it’s a beautiful pathway to carry folks who have been in VR, directly into an apprenticeship because they often have helped design the curriculum themselves at Wilson. A great example, was the program was designed so that all of that education that I talked about and for the industrial manufacturing technician, it was 100% completed at Wilson Workforce in the VR center. It was 100% completed. So by the time the person came in to be hired and apprenticed by the company, they hired them and registered them as apprentices. They had already done all that.

Rick Sizemore:  That’s amazing.

Debby Hopkins:  Yes. So they had to then just have on the job hands on experience using the education that they had already learned.

Rick Sizemore:  So Debbie, we’re kind of coming to the end of our time together. Where, as a VR client, would I find out where these opportunities are? Who would I talk to? How would I find the pathway forward?

Debby Hopkins:  The first place to start is apprenticeship.gov. That site is continually updated with resources, for individuals with disabilities and also job finders to kind of get you connected for each state, because not every state has a state apprenticeship agency or a federal. They kind of choose one though. In Virginia, they would look at the Department of Labor, division of registered apprenticeship. And you can see the sponsors, the employers who had decided to be sponsors of apprenticeship. You can do that on a national level.

Rick Sizemore: That is really…

Debby Hopkins:  To look at who’s their sponsors.

Rick Sizemore:  That’s really awesome.

Debby Hopkins:  And then last I should have to put in a plug for intermediaries. www.appteon.com is an intermediary for information technology apprenticeships. You can find industry intermediaries also on apprenticeship.gov, look under resources, and you can see every single grant and contract. We have a contract to help you by industry and getting employers and educators and apprentices connected. So check us out, aptin.com or apprenticeship.gov and look under resources for industry intermediaries.

Rick Sizemore:  We’ll include a link to that on our show notes. Debby Hopkins, always a pleasure.

Debby Hopkins:  Thank you very much, Rick. And best of luck on your mission.

Rick Sizemore: Up next, Betsy Civilette, our DARS communications director, talks with Casey Jackson from the Institute for Individual and Organizational Change on motivational interviewing. Betsy.

Betsy Civilette: Today on our podcast, Casey Jackson joins us with the Institute for Individual and Organizational Change. Welcome to the podcast, Casey.

Casey Jackson:  Thanks for having me.

Betsy Civilette:  Casey, I see you have a background working in mental health, addiction treatment, child welfare, corrections, and you worked for 16 years at Washington State University.

Casey Jackson:  Yes.

Betsy Civilette:  You were immersed in motivational interviewing communication style. So tell us a little bit more about your background and what you currently do for the institute.

Casey Jackson:  Well, the executive director. When I left the university, actually the primary contract I was working on was with division of vocation rehabilitation, Washington state. And at the university, I was pretty immersed in looking at motivation from an evidence based practice perspective. The way I was originally trained to train on motivational interviewing, was very acronym heavy. And it was actually in VR that I kind of cut my teeth into really looking at how do we affect outcomes in a very positive way with really complex populations that moves beyond acronyms and really looks at human behavior, especially with complex needs. And how can we affect real outcomes. Not just go through a training, but actually impact people getting back to work and the support that they need. So that was my transit from just mental health addiction, training on motivational interviewing and really looking at how do we impact real people in the real world with how we communicate.

Betsy Civilette:  Okay. And so are you currently working with the Washington State division of VR?

Casey Jackson:  Well, I worked with Washington State Folk Rehab as a contractor leading the project. It was before Lynnae Rutledge had just left for RSA. I just got hired on when she was still in Washington State with her community chief, Kelly Franklin, and then Lynnae went off to RSA, Kelly and I were working on this project together for, it was about five years I was working on that project and then the outcomes were so staggering because Washington State was not in good shape then as a VR system. And it completely turned that whole system around. That was really exciting to spearhead that. Obviously as soon as the data came out, then I started doing VR in Alaska and Montana and Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, Delaware, a lot of VR states were just calling when some data got published saying, “Hey, can you come here, work with us. We want to see that the same shift in our data points too.”

Betsy Civilette: That’s excellent. Sounds like you’ve got now diversity of different VR folks that you’ve worked with. And DARS as well uses motivational interviewing. In fact, in a three year period, we trained over 100 VR counselors and community partners and they’ve used it with our career pathways clients, to help them beyond a job, finding a career. Is that something that you saw with Washington VR or any of the other VR?

Casey Jackson:  Yeah, it was pretty amazing. Some of the core data points that were really impressive is, the staff satisfaction went up almost monumentally, which is shocking, one of the things we are looking at all the way going to fidelity. So it was beyond just going through training, like intro training, advanced training, there was a cohort that really wanted to become highly skilled at MI. So they got coded and coached and with fidelity tool in motivation. And for the day back then, this was 2010, 2011, when there was rehab rates. That group of vocab counselors I got to work with, their average rehab rate went from around 52 ish percent up to between 77 or 82% rehab rates. It was almost doubled the rehab rates for the counselors that I worked with that became highly skilled at MI. So the outcomes just profoundly shifted when people actually developed the skill set as an evidence based practice beyond just the training that people tend to get.

Betsy Civilette:  Tell us a little bit more about what the components of motivational interviewing are.

Casey Jackson:  The thing I boil it down, because it can get pretty complex. Some people oversimplify, some people get pretty complex but it really comes down to, does this person feel heard and understood. Which is just how deep can you go with accurate empathy? And then when do you learn to shift gears and start to focus on what they want or what they need. One of the components of a fidelity tool that I was lucky enough to lead, the motivation and competency assessment is looking at, do people know how to respond to language? Like the sustained talk and change talk. Like when you hear when people are stuck, do you know what to say? When you hear change, do you know what to say? That’s a core construct of what we measure to see is this motivational interviewing?

Casey Jackson:  When people hear types of language, because most people can go high empathy. Most people can start to guide people towards a plan. That’s what most of us are very skilled at, is working towards a plan. But when you hear language, it’s like driving a clutch, to know when to shift gears, when to up-shift and when to down-shift. And that’s what, even with all the training that people getting at MI, that tends to be one skillset that people aren’t particularly adept to doing.

Betsy Civilette:  I was talking to one of our folks and they explained it as kind of a purposeful strategic dialogue, which allows a practitioner to help them work through ambivalence. Is that a big component of it?

Casey Jackson:  Yeah. That’s kind of the elevator explanation and even people still go, “Yeah. What does that mean?” And that motivational interviewing itself is kind of a confusing term, but that’s a great explanation. One of the things that I always talk about is that it’s not therapy necessarily, even though it came out of the addiction world and is very effective, it is a method of communication. It’s when we open our mouths, are we clear about how that’s impacting the people around us and the way that their brain is firing? And in the last few years where I’ve really gotten obsessed, just kind of this crosswalk between communication and how it impacts executive functioning in terms of trauma or trauma informed care. So looking at motivation as based practice, and how does this affect people that have had trauma in their life and helped their brain do some more imperative work through the way we communicate.

Betsy Civilette:  Right. So it can be used in all walks of life it sounds like. Getting back to the VR, can you give us a little more data information? Like you said some stories about how MI has made a significant impact in helping those in the VR world to transform their lives.

Casey Jackson:  Yeah. What happens I think, is that where we look at the hard data, like I said, the rehabilitation rates back in… So I started the project in 2008. We wrapped in 2012. And one of the data points was that shift from rehab rate, with the ones who went all the way to competency from like a 52% rehab rate to the highest ones were an 82% rehab rate. Some of the other aspects that were amazing is, where they needed to be with their federal indicators, was about 59, 60%. And they were at 120% of what RSA expected for deliverables. This was really difficult for, I think, everywhere because the economy was so difficult. That’s when we were in a slump in that 2007, ‘8, ‘9, ’10, we had hiring freezes and actually people’s caseloads were doubling and their rehab rates were actually increasing.

Casey Jackson:  There were staff that I was working with that said, “You know what,  I would’ve quit my job three years ago and if I didn’t have motivational reviewing now, I just feel like I have a meaner and leaner caseload.” We tend not to go through intake, they’re on our caseload and it just doesn’t feel like there’s any movement, that just started drifting because people were either, they really wanted employment or they were there for the myriad of other reasons why people access vocational rehabilitation, even if their end goal is not to get a job that started cleaning up those caseloads where it just feels like, “Oh my gosh, how do we navigate this caseload when I don’t know if this person really wants to get back to employment.”

Betsy Civilette: You mentioned training beyond acronyms and your person mentioned the word Equipoise?

Casey Jackson:  Yes.

Betsy Civilette:  Yes. So tell us about equipoise.

Casey Jackson:  Well, one of the things that, because there’s the oral skills and the darn cat and the darn sea, and IQ edge, and there’s just so many acronyms in motivational interviewing, and one of the core component, one of the things that I like to focus on is the concept of equipoise, because it does impact our tone of voice, how biased we are. Equipoise is an attempt to go into a conversation unbiased. So we’re not leaning one way or the other. And it makes it really helpful when we’re dealing with charged situations. Somebody can walk in with the challenges that they have, say they want to have employment. And there’s all sorts of things that can trigger inside of us our bias. Well, we’ve heard this story a hundred times. I know they’re here because they just want to get on social security. But they’re telling me they want a job because somebody told them that if they did that, that’s a hoop. They have to jump through.

Casey Jackson:  Like we can have all these things that get stirred up in us. An example that I use for how it impacts the brain on how we talk and how equipoise fits into that, is I can do a reflective statement, I can say, “So you think that was your only choice” and you can hear my bias in that, and that’s going to make you defensive. I can also say, “So you think that was your only choice.”

Casey Jackson:  And then you start to explain your ambivalence or what your dilemma is. So we can train people on reflective listening all day long, which is what most people think MI has a lot of reflective listening and open questions. But we tend to not be overly aware about what are we bringing to the table. And some of the attitudes and biases we bring to the table can actually generate the resistance that we’re supposed to be mitigating in a motivationally based conversation. We want to eliminate that tension between us and who we’re working with and have none of that negative energy between the two of us, so we can access that ambivalence. But sometimes we’re unaware of our own biases. That’s generating some of the resistance that we’re trying to get over. And so that’s where the equipoise is one of the constructs that I have people really think about how much is our presence generating resistance with the population that we’re here to serve?

Betsy Civilette:  That is fascinating. And I tell you, I think I want to use motivational interviewing on my teenagers.

Casey Jackson:  Yes. This is what I hear. Betsy. I’ll tell you, after day one of training, day two people come back and say, “You know what, I use this on my spouse. I use this on my kids. Oh my gosh, this stuff actually works.”

Betsy Civilette:  Right. My son is in college and trying to figure out life and what to do. So that would be very useful. Is there anything else that you want to add?

Casey Jackson:  Well, I think that’s a perfect example, even have serious half joking even about your son. Part of this with equipoise as well too, is it’s difficult in this day and age. One of the things I talk to professionals about that can generate a little pushback is to be able to be an equipoise, you do have to work towards detaching from the outcome. And people just go, we can’t, you don’t understand our industry. We can’t detach from the outcome, but it’s just apparent, the more attached we get to an outcome, literally that attachment is what we’ll start to generate resistance and the pushback with the person we’re trying to help.

Casey Jackson:  So ironically, if we follow that helper instinct or that love we have for our children, or we lean into it and try to help, that in and of itself can generate the tension between two things or generate between our desire to help people at times with their own writing reflex, can generate some of that tension that we’re literally trying to get over and baffled when we go to bed, it’s like, “Why are they so angry at me? I’m just trying to help.” And that can be part of the problem, is not understanding that dynamic.

Betsy Civilette:  So how do other VR departments find out about motivational interviewing and how can anyone access it?

Casey Jackson:  It’s amazing. It’s really become more vibrant in the VR world, I’d say in the last 10 years or so. No I’ve been involved in so many other VR agencies. I think almost every VR agency in the US has been touched by motivational interviewing. Just doing a Google search, typing in motivation in VR, there’s an article that I wrote years ago. There’s so much data that’s been produced since in VR, there’s more and more journal articles. I remember there was no videos on motivation and employment. We did the very first series with the TACE out of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa. We worked with them, put a video series out. Gosh, that was probably 10 years ago.

Casey Jackson:  And since then, now there’s so many videos on motivational employment that’s come out. And it really is just as easy as putting that Google search in there and looking for things. Some of that data’s actually on our website @ifioc.com. There’s just so many places you can find good data on motivational interviewing and voc rehab in this day and age. Now. I would say within the last five, six years, it’s just been amazing to me to see how much it’s grown and given access in this world.

Rick Sizemore:  We’ll have a link on our show notes for the Institute for Individual and Organizational Change, as well as Casey’s contact information. Betsy Civilette is the communications director for the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and the cohost of the VR workforce studio podcast.

Rick Sizemore:  Well, we’re so fortunate to welcome to the podcast, Heather Servais, the new director of the National Clearinghouse for Rehabilitation Training Materials. First of all, congratulations on your new job and welcome to the show, Heather.

Heather Servais:  Thanks, Rick. It’s been great. I’m so excited to be here and be part of this podcast team.

Rick Sizemore:  Well, Veterans Day is in November and I’ll bet you have some resources for vets and the folks that work with them.

Heather Servais:  Absolutely. And first let me say thank you to all of our men and women, the service members that have served our great nation. We do have wonderful resources available for veterans and those who serve them on the NCRTM. One of highlight just two of my favorites. There’s an excellent vocational rehabilitation services for veterans with disabilities training available through the VRTAC for quality employment. This is a CRC credit available for those counselors who need to get those continuing education credits. My other favorite resource that we have for veterans is the guided group discovery facilitator guide. This really is a helpful for our counselors and others who serve veterans with disabilities in leading them through this group discovery process that helps them identify their conditions for success, and really look to eliminate those barriers to employment so that we can find meaningful jobs and employment for our veterans who are seeking employment.

Rick Sizemore:  Well, that’s awesome, Heather. Of course I have several family members who are veterans and active duty military at this point in my life. So I’m grateful to you and the clearinghouse for the work you do. We talked about motivational interviewing on today’s show. I bet you have some resources around that topic as well.

Heather Servais:   We sure do. And we have an excellent training series that we put together with Oregon vocational rehabilitation. So not only is it motivational interviewing, but it’s motivational interviewing specific for vocational rehabilitation. And so this really looks at how our counselors can employ this and working with their customers. We have special topics on engaging the wisdom of the team and using motivational interviewing with adults and student populations, which is really helpful in our environment today and vocational rehabilitation.

Rick Sizemore:  Heather Servais, the new director of the National Clearinghouse for Rehabilitation Training Materials. Thank you for your contribution to our show today, and we’ll see you next month.

Heather Servais:   Sounds great. Thanks Rick.

Rick Sizemore:  Here’s Lynn Harris, director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation.

Lynn Harris: The Foundation is pleased to bring you these exciting stories of how vocational rehabilitation is changing people’s lives. Your support helps students gain the skills and credentials they need to be successful in business and industry.

Lynn Harris:  We thank all of our partners in podcasting who made this episode possible, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, CVS Health, and the Hershey Company. You can find out more about becoming a sponsor at wwrcf.org, or find our contact information in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com.

Rick Sizemore:  You can always find another exciting episode, as we podcast the sparks that ignite vocational rehabilitation, here at the VR Workforce Studio. Until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore.

Announcer:  The VR Workforce Studio Podcast is owned and operated by the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation. The Foundation publishes and distributes the VR Workforce Studio, and manages all sponsor arrangements. Audio content for the podcast is provided to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, in exchange for promotional considerations.