Section 1

Wilson Workforce & Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) Overview

WWRC strives to be the preferred service provider of
comprehensive vocational rehabilitation for Virginians with Disabilities.  
 
 

Legacy as a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center

Since its establishment in 1947, WWRC has experienced a long-standing history of effecting transformations in the lives of Virginians with disabilities and has been often recognized as a 'jewel of the Commonwealth' nestled in the Shenandoah Valley.  As the first of eight nationally recognized VR Training Centers (formerly known as State-Operated Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers) in the United States and the only one of its kind in Virginia, WWRC has set the bar high in helping Virginians with complex and challenging disabilities achieve independence through employment.  By design, WWRC operates under the premise that VR-driven vocational and medical rehabilitation services provided through the use of integrated, inter-disciplinary teams under one roof benefit Virginians with disabilities requiring this level of support to achieve their rehabilitation goals. 

 

WWRC continuously assesses Virginia's workforce needs, the aptitudes and abilities of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) clients, and statewide employment trends to configure Center services to meet the needs of Agency vocational rehabilitation (VR) clients.   Services are planned, delivered, and continuously reviewed in accordance with the nine dimensions of the Center's vision as well as with the Center's three values.  It is important for every WWRC staff member to understand the value of the VR Training Center and the campus community/residential environment that is essential to the success of enrolled VR clients. 

 

WWRC is not just a medical center or vocational school with dorms and a recreation center.  It is a highly integrated set of comprehensive services that spans twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 50 weeks per year, to ensure that clients receive an array of services to promote independence, self-sufficiency and employment skills. Many of the Center's clients have never been away from home or have experienced differential treatment because of their disabilities.  The Center offers a highly unique living and learning environment essential for a person with a disability to become aware of, develop and demonstrate independence in a semi-supervised community with access to rehabilitation staff that support clients goals, therapy and vocational instruction. 

 

During the rehabilitative process on campus, people with disabilities find supportive peers, identify with a community of like minded "rehabilitants" and experience a bridge to personal autonomy and independence that forms the basis for competitive workplace readiness and employment.  Throughout the living and learning environment, both para-professional and professional staff serve as members of the rehabilitation team designed to help facilitate rehabilitation goals being pursued by clients. This residential experience facilitates a powerful context in which people with disabilities not only gain independence but train for a career path through one of WWRC's workforce driven training programs.

 
Federal Governance

WWRC is the first state-owned and operated comprehensive rehabilitation center in the nation, now known as the first of the nation's Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Training Centers. WWRC is a key and essential partner with the Commonwealth of Virginia's DARS Agency which serves as the designated State Unit for the Federal VR Program administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

 

RSA's major Title I formula grant program provides funds to state VR agencies to provide employment-related services for individuals with disabilities, giving priority to individuals who are significantly disabled.  RSA is a division of the United States Department of Education (USDOE)Title 34 of the USDOE Act Part 361 authorizes the State VR Services Program. In its purpose statement, USDOE authorizes programs that are "designed to assess, plan, develop and provide vocational rehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities, consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice, so that they may 'prepare for and engage in gainful employment'."

 

DARS carries out the important work of administering the federal VR program in Virginia.  WWRC collaborates with DARS to provide assessment, transition, and workforce-driven training programs designed for individuals with complex and challenging disabilities who require comprehensive vocational and medical rehabilitation to become independent and employed.   The Center constantly assesses the workforce needs of Virginia, the aptitudes and abilities of DRS clients, and statewide employment trends to configure Center service so they meet the needs of Agency clients. The Federal statutory authority governing DARS operations is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, reauthorized in 1998 under Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act (Public Law 105-220) and reauthorized again in 2014 under Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).   New statutory provisions make significant improvements for individuals with disabilities, especially youth with disabilities as they make the transition from education to employment, by helping to ensure that these individuals have opportunities to acquire the skills and training they need to maximize their potential and enter competitive, integrated employment.

 

State Governance

The DARS Commissioner is authorized to operate and maintain WWRC.  The DARS Commissioner is authorized to promulgate regulations necessary to carry out provisions of the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia administered by the Department (Code of Virginia, Title 51.5).  The DARS agency, including WWRC, operates under the oversight of the Commonwealth of Virginia Health and Human Resources (HHR) Secretariat.

 

Unique Educational Governance within a State Operated Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center

WWRC is designated as a State Operated Education Program (SOP) by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).   As a designated SOP, WWRC must maintain current policies, procedures, and supporting documentation to demonstrate compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and corresponding Virginia Board of Education regulations governing the provision of special education and related services, licensure and accreditation.   The VDOE Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia, effective January 25, 2010, includes the following definition:

"State-operated programs" means programs that provide educational services to children and youth who reside in facilities according to the admissions policies and procedures of those facilities that are the responsibility of state boards, agencies, or institutions.

(§§ 22.1-7, 22.1-340 and 22.1-345 of the Code of Virginia).

 

WWRC is dually designated as a postsecondary institution of higher education under the Code of Virginia.  As such, WWRC must comply with legislative requirements and regulations under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, relative to its governance, operations, and, student services. As a designated postsecondary institution of higher education, WWRC is authorized to access Title IV Federal aid for eligible students enrolled in approved training programs, governed under a Program Participation Agreement (PPA) with the U.S. Department of Education.  Students without a valid high school diploma must meet required Ability to Benefit provisions to qualify for Federal student aid under the law.    Coordination of required Ability to Benefit business processes between the WWRC Admissions and Vocational Training Departments for potentially eligible students is articulated in WWRC's Administrative Governance Manual Policy and related Procedures.

 

Core Business Drivers & Performance Metrics

 

Requirements under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) define six key organizational performance measures for which the DARS VR Agency, including WWRC as a partner and major contributor, is held accountable:

 

  • Employment Rate - Second/Fourth Quarter After Exit:  Percentage of Program (Training) Participants who are in unsubsidized employment during the second and fourth quarter after exit from the program (4-6 months and 10-12 months respectively).
  • Median Earnings – Second Quarter After Exit:  The Median earnings of program participants who are in unsubsidized employment during the second quarter after exit from the program.
  • Credential Attainment:  Percentage of program participants who obtain a recognized post-secondary credential or a secondary school diploma, or its recognized equivalent during participation in or within one year after exit from the program.
  • Measurable Skill Gains: Percentage of program participants who, during a program year, are in an education or training program that leads to a recognized postsecondary credential or employment and who are achieving measurable skills gains, defined as documented academic, technical, occupational, or other forms of progress, towards such a credential or employment.
  • Effectiveness in Serving Employers – three approaches are being piloted looking at Retention (with the same employer); Repeat Business Customers; and Employer Penetration Rate.
  • Business engagement - the Center's partnership with DARS and Business Development Managers in reaching out to businesses and forming relationships that result in employment of consumers and filling the pipeline for business and industry's labor needs.

 

WWRC also contributes to key Agency requirements under WIOA governing Pre-Employment Training Services (Pre-ETS), including the requirement that 15% of federal VR funding be reserved to provide Pre-ETS services for Students with Disabilities who are eligible or potentially eligible for VR services. WWRC contributes to the Agency's Pre-ETS annual goal, through defined and approved Vocational Services that meet the federal definitions for Student with a Disability (SWD) and authorized Pre-ETS services.   Required Pre-ETS services include:

 

  • Job exploration counseling
  • Work-based learning activities
  • Counseling on opportunities for enrollment in comprehensive transition or post-secondary educational programs
  • Workplace readiness training
  • Instruction in self-advocacy

     

WWRC Performance Metrics and Blueprint growth initiative goals are dually aligned with core Principles of the Council of State Administrators in VR (CSAVR) 2020 Vision as follows:

  • VR is mission driven and dual customer focused
  • VR leads change through innovative and cutting edge practice
  • VR customizes services to meet the needs of the individual and business customers
  • VR creates partnerships to maximize resources and opportunities

 

Operational References:

 

Strategic Planning and Operational Cycles

WWRC responds to dual Federal and State strategic planning cycles and is accountable for documentation and reporting on both federal and state fiscal years.  WWRC utilizes its Blueprint for Direction, updated annually, to develop and carry out strategic plans that guide the overall direction of the Center.    The Blueprint also provides an overview of WWRC's plans to improve the independence and employment of Virginians with disabilities. 

 

WWRC's Blueprint for Direction, is an operational document developed through a collaborative process of engaging stakeholders and service providers.   The State Plan for VR and the Agency's Triennial Needs Assessment, both required under RSA Federal regulations,  serve as the strategic foundation for the Center’s Blueprint. 

 

The Center Director's Report, targeting WWRC and DRS partners as its primary audience, provides a periodic review of WWRC's operations and offers updates on the Center's performance, successes, and challenges relative to federal and state strategic plans and implementation of the Blueprint.  
 

WWRC Partners

WWRC partners closely with DRS -- the VR Program 'arm' of DARS.   DRS is WWRC's key customer and is represented by more than 30 field offices across Virginia.  The VR personnel who staff these offices and the team at WWRC are key partners and together provide a significant contribution toward the Agency's mission.  WWRC partners with other state agencies and community-based organizations for targeted referral development (such as its medical outreach model) and coordinated service delivery (such as the PERT Program and the Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS), formerly the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program).  

 

In collaboration with DRS Business Development Managers, business leadership networks & Virginia workforce partners, WWRC reaches out to employers and corporate networks throughout the Commonwealth to promote access to expanded training and employment opportunities.  Other partners, including the seven remaining VR Training Centers (formerly known as the National Consortia of State Operated Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers) and the Virginia Assistive Technology (AT) System's AT Advisory Council, serve in an advisory and consultation/technical assistance role as WWRC develops and implements its tactical operational plan known as its Blueprint. 
 
The Wilson Workforce & Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) Foundation and Council of Organizations are two 501(c)3 organizations that support the operations of WWRC.  

  • WWRC Foundation (WWRC-F):  The mission of the WWRC-F is to raise funds and secure resources to support vocational and medical rehabilitation at WWRC, leading to increased independence and employment of Virginians with disabilities.   The Foundation envisions  WWRC with abundant funding to sustain an exceptional VR experience, preparing Virginians with disabilities for gainful employment so that they can enjoy dignity and economic independence. The WWRC Foundation invests the gifts of donors to expand the Center's proven combination of medical and vocational rehabilitation.
  • The Council of Organizations, governed by a volunteer board established in 1969, assists the students and staff of the WWRC with small gifts, moneys and the coordination of volunteer services.
     

WWRC continuously stays abreast of federal and state regulatory guidance and other trends in the field that may impact its operations through affiliation with professional networks such as the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), and the remaining seven VR Training Centers.   These partnerships enable WWRC to anticipate future opportunities and directions while directing current operations. 

 

WWRC's Value Chain

A business Value Chain, as defined by Michael Porter in his 1980 book titled Competitive Advantage, is a series of activities that create value at every step of an organization.  WWRC conducts its business such that the following organizational goals are attained:

  • Clients, their families and referral sources receive timely, accurate and professional assessment reports that provide direction on a client's capabilities, aptitudes and future potential for vocational rehabilitation.
  • Clients have a time limited transition experience to gain independence and life skills in a semi-supervised residential setting with intense programming to explore their potential for further vocational rehabilitation.
  • Clients reach employment readiness with entry level skill sets and performance relevant to workforce needs in the community where they plan to reside and be employed.
  • Business and Industry recognize WWRC as a source of trained and capable employees to meet their workforce needs.
  • Clients resolve impediments to employment as a result of comprehensive wrap around support services that prepare them to live and work independently.
  • Citizens of the Commonwealth have access to highly specialized medical rehabilitation therapies not available through any other provider.

 

How Business Gets Done

WWRC functionally operates across seven divisions – see Appendix for a visual of the Center Organizational Chart.    

  • Administration
  • Operations
  • Medical
  • Career and Workforce Development
  • Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Residential
  • Organizational Development & Quality Assurance

The WWRC Executive Team, comprised of the WWRC Director and direct report Division Directors, plans, executes, and monitors strategic operations of the Center and provides leadership and accountability to facilitate attainment of the Center's vision, mission, and values.  The WWRC Director is a member of the DARS Management Team and keeps the WWRC Executive Team apprised of current Agency issues and forecasted needs.

 

The WWRC Executive Team meets monthly with the DSA Executive Support Unit, accountable to the DARS Chief Operations Officer.  The purpose of this joint monthly meeting is to organize, plan, and implement areas co-located on the WWRC campus that affect Center operations (Fiscal, Human Resource, Information Technology, and Records Management).  The WWRC Director leads the blended organizational entity, known as the WWRC Executive Staff, in consultation with the DARS Chief Operations Officer.

 

The WWRC Director maintains a close working partnership with the DARS Division Director of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) and DRS District Managers.  Together, they strategically plan for VR needs of the population to be served and share a mutual commitment to maximize Agency resources resulting in successful employment outcomes for VR clients.

 

WWRC utilizes structured teams, committees, and workgroups to help manage and direct day to day operations.  Defined terms and a corresponding chart delineating sanctioned teams and committees are found in the Appendix of this Manual.  Committee Charters are found in the Appendix as well as a macro level schematic view of WWRC's overall operations, as they interface with the DRS Division of DARS to facilitate workforce readiness and successful employment outcomes for VR consumers.

 

In addition to these formal, structured organizational entities, the WWRC Executive Team meets monthly with WWRC and DSA Support Unit managers, as well as other representatives who conduct operations on the WWRC campus for general information exchange and relevant staff training.   Other representatives may include the Foundation, Council of Organizations, and the DRS Field Operations Manager, Fishersville/Harrisonburg Office.   The purpose of this meeting is to coordinate campus operational activities across divisions, units, and various co-located organizations such that there is a high level of communication that promotes efficiency, effectiveness, and awareness of key issues affecting WWRC.