VR Turns 100
The Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner Mark Schultz discusses the 100th Anniversary of Vocational Rehabilitation
Singer: VR Workforce Studio
Mark Schultz: To think about all the great leaders who have been a part of the VR Program over the last hundred years, I’m not doing this alone. There’s tremendous leadership in the VR programs across the country.
Announcer: Begin countdown. Three, two, one.
Mark Schultz: So that energizes me. This is our opportunity to set the stage for the next hundred years.
Rick: VR Workforce Studio, podcasting the sparks that ignite Vocational Rehabilitation with the inspiring stories of people with disabilities who have gone to work-
VR Clients: Tech Support, Electronics Technician, Supervisor
Rick: As well as the professionals who have helped
VR Professional: Special Education Teachers.
Rick: And the businesses who have filled their talent pipelines-
Rick: With workers that happen to have disabilities.
Dr. Megan Healy: Because there is such a great story to tell about people with disabilities.
Rick: These are their stories. Welcome to episode 78 of the VR Workforce Studio Podcast, as 2020 brings us the 100th anniversary of Vocational Rehabilitation. The Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Mark Schultz, joins us on today’s podcast to talk about the events and activities planned for 2020, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Vocational Rehabilitation. Prior to joining RSA, Commissioner Schultz spent the past three decades serving people with disabilities, through Nebraska’s Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Nebraska Department of Education among other key national leadership roles. Welcome to the podcast, Commissioner Schultz.
Mark: Thank you, Rick. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here today. I think it’s especially great to be using this medium, your podcast, as a way to share information, because it’s a great example of the innovative strategies VR programs are using across the country.
Rick: We have certainly enjoyed being able to share some of the success stories of our guests, and talk with VR professionals, so thank you for that. You’ve dedicated your life and career to VR. It has to be exciting to be in this key leadership role as VR turns 100.
Mark: It is definitely exciting, but it is also humbling and intimidating. I think about all the great leaders who’ve been a part of the history over the VR program over the last 100 years. VR is really involved in response to ever-changing lead- plated, philosophical, technological, and just the ever changing world around us. The leaders of the past where faced with many of the challenges through their leadership. The VR program has always kept its focus on providing services and support, to helping individuals with disabilities get a job. And now it’s our turn, a challenge we all share, to lead by building the foundation for the VR program for the next 100 years.
Rick: What are some of the key events and activities in the works for this year celebration?
Mark: Well, we have been working on a framework to plan for a series of monthly activities over 2020, on our past to celebrate the success of our VR agencies across the country. And to share the ways we’re working with our partners at a national, state, and local level, to create innovative programs and services for the future. Each month we hope to focus on a theme to demonstrate the ways we’re innovating. We’re working with our partners, building careers, and the unique role that we played through customized services.
Mark: We soon will be announcing the availability of a VR 100 webpage, Where we’ll share more about our planned activities for each month. The webpage is going to include a VR 100 logo that can be used by VR agencies, information about upcoming event. So watch for those, because we hope that one or two major events. They will also include success stories featuring our customers, our consumers, and businesses and other materials. The goal and my hope is that States will use the information from the webpage that they’d like to develop their own stage or local VR, 100 celebration events. In addition, Jerry Elliott, an RSA staff member, is going to be recording a webinar that provides a review of the major milestones in the VR program over the last 100 years. We’ll plan to make that webinar available on the webpage. We’ll be announcing the availability of the webpage very soon.
Rick: Well, that’s exciting. Commissioner, you’ve found inspiration, well like many folks in VR to serve people with disabilities, because of your own family’s experiences with disabilities. How does it make you feel to know that you’re leading a program that’s been around for a century serving others?
Mark: Well, you’re right. Many individuals in VR have the same experiences, stories that help us bring a passion to the work that we do. So that’s really what I’ve learned is that I’m not doing this alone. There’s tremendous leadership in the VR programs across the country, and everyone has their own story about why they’re a part of the VR, and that fuels the passion and is our commonality. And because of that, I’m counting on their help and support, as we’re all responsible for the continued success of the program. In addition, I have great admiration for the commitment and dedication of the RSA staff. They’re truly invested in supporting our state programs to provide quality services, because they know that means people we serve are going to have a greater likelihood in successful employment. It also provides me with a lot of comfort, but also confidence to know how much support there is here, and across the nation for the work we do.
Rick: You know, I’ve heard you speak on more than one occasion about the responsibility you feel to see that Vocational Rehabilitation impacts the ability of individuals with disabilities to be employed and to live independently. Your commitment to that vision seems so very deep and personal. As you go through these events and celebrations, what’s your hope for how they’ll energize Vocational Rehabilitation in achieving its mission?
Mark: Well. I appreciate that. I also had talked about the evolution of the VR program, and how we need to continue to evolve as the world changes around us. When WIOA passed, it created an expectation that we should be focused on quality employment and not just any job. It also focuses on pre-employment transition services and competitive integrated employment. So once again, we were asked to change and our history shows that change should be expected. So we need to learn from our past and recognize that just as others have led the program through change, it’s now our turn. And so the past gives us the knowledge, and the credibility to lead us for the future. We build off the great work of those who led before us. So that energizes me, and I hope others as this is our opportunity to set the stage for the next 100 years.
Rick: Well, commissioner, we appreciate your voice. Our listeners first met you when you were a guest, when we talked with the Blue Man Group about increasing the accessibility of their shows for people with autism. So thank you so much for your help, and support for what we’re doing.
Mark: I appreciated that opportunity, and that really was a great example of the innovation and creativity that’s going on across the country. And I hope through the course of the next year in elevating the program through our 100th anniversary celebration, we’ll be able to share many more of those stories.
Rick: That’s awesome. We extend an invitation to you to join us anytime you’d like to be on the podcast. Mark Schultz is the Commissioner for the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the US Department of Education, and also serves as the acting Assistant Secretary for the office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. He comes to us from his office in Washington DC. Thank you, Commissioner, for being our guest on the podcast today.
Mark: Thank you, Rick. I appreciate the opportunity.
Rick: This has been a special presentation of the VR workforce studio. You can always join us @vrworkforcestudio.com, or in iTunes for a new and inspiring episode on the 1st of every month. The VR Workforce Studio is now available in Castbox, or on your iHeartRadio App. Until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore, inviting you to join us, as we podcast the sparks that ignite Vocational Rehabilitation. 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 consideration.