VR Workforce Studio Special Episode with Dr. Kurt Sprenger and his reflections on the 2018 NET Summit

Kurt Sprenger

Rick Sizemore Twitter @Rickwwrc or email, rick.sizemore@WWRC.virginia.gov

Anne Hudlow’s email is Annehudlow@comcast.net

Cherie Takemoto  ctakemoto@neweditions.net

DARS Business Services   http://www.vdars.org/

Council of State Administrators for Vocational Rehabilitation CSAVR https://www.csavr.org/

The National Employment Team (The Net) https://www.csavr.org/the-net


Speaker 1: VR Workforce Studio.

Rick Sizemore: Welcome to episode 57 of the VR Workforce Studio. Today, we’re delighted to have my good friend Dr. Kurt Sprenger of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center for our special VR briefing room episode.

Anne Hudlow: Be sure to join us on the 15th of every month for one of our big inspiration showcase episodes featuring the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.

Rick Sizemore: Yeah. You’ll hear consumers as they discuss their VR career pathways as we reflect with the champions of business and industry who hire individuals with disabilities, and talk with the VR professionals who dedicated their lives and careers to helping individuals with disabilities go to work.

Anne Hudlow: But today, we simply had to bring you this special episode about an incredible event that took place at the General Motors Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.

Rick Sizemore: That’s the 2018 net summit Anne, which was put together by the Council of State Administrators for vocational rehabilitation’s national employment team, or as most of the VR community says the net. You can find them on Twitter @theNETeam. We’ll of course have contact information for everything we’ve discussed on our episode today listed in the contacts section of our show notes at VRWorkforceStudio.com. The 2018 Net Summit with CSAVR, The Net, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind People, and GM all in one dynamic setting.

Anne Hudlow: The 2018 Net Summit brought 47 net members, business and training staff together to discuss their long-term goals. CSAVR Vision 2020 that ever so important dual customer model as well as diversity employment, disability talent, and VR.

Rick Sizemore: The VR training centers were especially pleased to be involved, and we just can’t say enough great things about CSAVR, and The Net Steve Wooderson, Kathy West Evans, and their teams all doing some incredible work to bring VR, and business together on some very high levels. That’s good news for the VR program. Our own Kurt Sprenger attended the summit from Wilson along with Karen Carothers from the VR training center in Tennessee. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the centers at VR, that’s capital V-R pipeline @VRpipeline. Kurt, just back from Michigan here in the studio to talk about the summit, and all the cool things going on at The Net. Welcome Dr. Sprenger.

Dr Sprenger: Thanks. Great to be here today.

Rick Sizemore: You are the guy that we refer to as the one who mans the bat phone with WOA, data, whatever you need here at Wilson. You call Dr. Sprenger, and he can hook you up. But Kurt, what was it like to be in the midst of the type of VR synergy that was such a part of this net summit, and held at the prestigious GM headquarters?

Dr Sprenger: The level of commitment and engagement in that room was infectious. It was, as you said, 47 different folks, different states represented, and it was engagement all the way. GM facility. What do you say about that place? It’s almost like you’re afraid to walk on the glass way there because it’s just an immaculate building with palm trees inside, and the City of Detroit as well. You can’t say enough. It was of course lot of volleyball players going on. They were having 26,000 volleyball players in town. Being able to engage with people in the-

Rick Sizemore: They do the kind of work we do.

Dr Sprenger: I went to dinner with Arizona, Arkansas, Utah, Connecticut, Iowa, Missouri, one dinner with all these different people. It was wonderful. I can’t say enough about the level of engagement in that room, and the design of that summit was just incredible. The amount of networking that you could do the way it was designed. I can’t say enough about how-

Rick Sizemore: Good stuff.

Dr Sprenger: Cathy West Evans and her team have really worked too, and for their first summit they really put together a quality event.

Anne Hudlow: That sounds awesome Kurt. What are some topics that you discussed?

Dr Sprenger: GM talked about their autonomous vehicles. Of course, they couldn’t say a whole lot. I could say they told us all their secrets, but no. They thought our questions were very thoughtful or interesting, and for them that is code for, “They can’t tell us anything.” We joked in the room about if you get asked a question, and you don’t want to answer, and you say, “Hmm. That’s interesting. I wonder if that would fly with my boss?”

Dr Sprenger: But all serious, they showcased some of the products they’re working on, and how they do it, which was really the key part, and how they have to engage, and how they have to know their audience, which kind of relates to The Net team, and how they need to know their audience. The topics related to The Net, we’re talking about the talent pipeline, talking about business engagement, apprenticeships, business data. Those were the kinds of things.

Rick Sizemore: What are some of the VR approaches being used to engage business?

Dr Sprenger: A couple of interesting things. You have apprenticeships. I know Arizona share their apprenticeship. You have Michigan. I was particularly impressed with. What they do is they have 13 business consultants and five OTs, and they reach out to businesses along with their occupational therapists to go provide what they call Wind Mills Training and other training. The OTs will actually go into the site, and do an evaluation with or without a consumer. Sometimes they do it without a consumer. And also in other states, Michigan was one, they do what they call Wind Mills Training, which is really just disability training, and how to communicate with various disabilities for employers, which I think is extremely valuable for our consumers.

Rick Sizemore: I think you had a chance to talk about the pre-apprenticeship training we’re doing here at Wilson.

Dr Sprenger: Yes I did. In the round tables, we got to talk about CVS. CVS is actually, some of the training they’re doing, the other states were also involved. All their training centers are involved with CVS training, but we talked about manufacturing technology training, and how we are certified or registered pre-apprenticeship program, and that we had consumers get hired by proceeds manufacturing plant. When you say that to an audience from people across the country, they don’t realize that Hershey’s is outside of Pennsylvania, and that there’s a plan five miles down the road from our-

Rick Sizemore: This is part of our community.

Dr Sprenger: Rehab center. We think Hershey, no problem. But everybody else was like, “Really? Pennsylvania?” No. It’s the same thing. We learned GM has got a warehouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia that they employ over 100 forklift operators.

Rick Sizemore: What an amazing environment to be in.

Anne Hudlow: I’m sure you learned a lot. What are some takeaways that you are bringing from the summit?

Dr Sprenger: The big takeaway is that there is a strong, clear vision for the future. Steve Wooderson mentioned it in the Vision 2020, but there’s also a vision for how to use our training centers more effectively. One of the thoughts out there was, “Can we get folks from other states to go to a training center in a state that doesn’t have a training center?”

Rick Sizemore: Right.

Dr Sprenger: That’s visionary.

Rick Sizemore: It’s really been embraced by CSAVR because of the workforce driven programming that you’re finding not only at Wilson, but in Arkansas, and Georgia, and Tennessee, and Pennsylvania among the other states like Michigan, and Kentucky, and Maryland. There’s a lot of excitement.

Dr Sprenger: Yeah. I think we’ve already, maybe actually served a consumer or two from West Virginia, and other states. That model is out there. Collaboration piece is important. System development, as we talked at our round tables. There’s still opportunity for business consultants, business development managers as they’re called different things to really reach out, and make sure that their roles are understood by field councilors. There’s a challenge of keeping that pipeline full. We can do all the connections we want with industry, but we don’t have the pipeline.

Dr Sprenger: How do we get the pipeline? We’ve got to connect with our field to make sure they understand the system that occurs outside of working one on one with a consumer. I think that is on the forefront of everyone’s plate in addition to just having that vision for what’s next.

Rick Sizemore: Yeah.

Anne Hudlow: Kurt, how do you see what’s going on at the 2018 Net Summit relating to WIOA?

Dr Sprenger: This is the key to a data-geek’s heart right here. WIOA.

Rick Sizemore: You are a data-geek.

Anne Hudlow: We saved it for the last.

Dr Sprenger: When I stood up to introduce myself, it was interesting because I had to say … My director reached down the list, and he said data-geek, and-

Rick Sizemore: I’d pick the most talented guy we could send.

Dr Sprenger: It turned out for me to be almost the right … I don’t need to say, but he was very relevant because we talked about just about every measure it was talked about. The credential piece. We learned in that summit that Wisconsin is a state that their partners get together to talk about what credentials count, and that’s huge. There’s a lot ideas out there when you connect with other people from around the country. You’re spending the whole time going, “Oh, I wish we had that. I wish we had that.” Related to employer engagement, Michigan shared their recently developed data system tracking employer engagement, which is far beyond what the capabilities are current aware system we have.

Dr Sprenger: Right now in many states including Virginia are using the Aware Employer Module to attract their business activity, those kinds of things where Michigan has developed a very comprehensive system to track all their activity. Not just about who’s the lead contact for employers. It’s very, very, very comprehensive.

Rick Sizemore: Paul Mulka, our friend out at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute actually is a great partner, and they’ve employed the manufacturing skills institutes. Same group we use for our certifications here at Wilson. There’s a lot of collaboration. We can all learn from each other as we move that model forward. Dr. Kurt Sprenger, always a joy to have you in the operations that are going on here at the center, and thanks for representing us at the 2018 Net Summit.

Dr Sprenger: Oh thank you very much. It’s a pleasure.

Rick Sizemore: We’re delighted to have in the studio today Betsy McElfresh, part of the Virginia DARS Media team filming today’s podcast for a YouTube video. Don’t forget to check the Virginia DSARS Social media we will put links to all of these great social media sites in the show notes at VRWorkforceStudio.com.

Anne Hudlow: Thank you for joining 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, CVS 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: Thanks for listening to our show today. If you like what we’re doing, please let us know. All of our contact information is on the website at VRWorkforceStudio.com along with lots of helpful resources. Until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore.

Anne Hudlow: And I’m Anne Hudlow with the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.