The WWRC Vocational Training Department has dedicated a position to serve as a full-time Accreditation and Licensure Specialist since 2009. This position is accountable for systematic and continuous follow-up of training program graduates, in consultation with the WWRC Lead Program Evaluation Analyst for data collection, analysis, and reporting. A written follow-up plan is maintained by this position and reviewed annually.
Individual student progress data and official records are electronically documented and maintained through the on-campus WWRC Records Management Services Department.
WWRC reports its program completion, placement, and licensure (CPL) rate data annually to the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education, with Interim Reports and Improvement Plans submitted if rates are below negotiated benchmarks.
WWRC historically met completion and licensure benchmarks since the last Accreditation Site Visit with the exception of a couple completion rate anomalies in 2013 and 2016, both of which were quickly remediated. However, consistent compliance with WWRC's negotiated placement rate benchmark has been an issue across various training programs over the past six (6) years, causing COE to place WWRC in a continuous Heightened Monitoring Status since 2014. This status was re-classified as an unrestricted Warning Status in May, 2016, per changes documented in the COE Accreditation Handbook. This issue is discussed later in this Self-Study narrative, with more details provided by training program within applicable Standard 2 Individual Program Supplements.
All official student records are maintained in secure electronic databases, with access centrally managed through the Records Management Services Department on WWRC's campus in Fishersville, Virginia. Student information/data is managed through utilization of a computer case management software system named AWARE. DocFinity, a document imaging/management system, controls the saving, searching, retrieval, and routing of individual student documents. Together, these two computer software systems permit individual student progress data, including (a) appropriate evaluations of knowledge and skills required for occupation(s) studied and (b) notations of completion(s) of and/or withdrawal from training programs to be maintained and made a part of each student's record.
A student's record typically contains his/her counselor's case notes, the student's vocational evaluation, reports from the student's instructor regarding the student's progress in learning the required occupational knowledge and skills, and reports regarding the student's completion, withdrawal, or transfer from a particular training program. Transcripts are available upon request by contacting the WWRC Records Management Services Department.
In 2005, WWRC requested and was granted a negotiated placement rate of 45% based on the unique characteristics of the student population served which presents a unique set of challenges to annual attainment of the COE placement standard. At that same time a negotiated completion rate of 55.89% and a negotiated licensure exam pass rate of 87.37% were granted to WWRC.
WWRC has a written plan to ensure that follow-up is systematic and continuous. The Vocational Training Department employs a full-time Accreditation and Licensure Specialist whose responsibility is to carry out this plan. This person tracks and monitors all program completers to record their employment status one year following their graduation. The Accreditation and Licensure Specialist receives quarterly AWARE data extract information from the Lead Program Evaluation Analyst; this information is entered to AWARE by the student's Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services (DARS) Rehabilitation Counselor. If, for some reason, the information is not complete, the Accreditation and Licensure Specialist will contact the DRS Counselor or the student to obtain necessary employment information.
WWRC's Accreditation and Licensure Specialist does not follow-up directly with the graduates' employers. Employer follow-up during a graduate's first ninety (90) days of employment is the responsibility of the graduate's DRS Counselor and/or assigned DRS Placement Counselor. Their findings are recorded as case notes in AWARE and are available to users of AWARE which includes WWRC, as a division of the Virginia DARS Agency.
Completion and outcome data is used to compile the final COE-required CPL form/report. This information is compared with other internal/external agency reports relative to Vocational Training outcomes. Aggregate information is shared with Vocational Training Department staff and Occupational Advisory Committees at least twice annually. The reports can be used for several purposes, including improving program effectiveness for various modes of instructional delivery, to study curricula relevance to job requirement, and to improve the quality of program outcomes.
Challenges and Proposed Solutions
Since DARS is the primary referral source of applicants to WWRC's vocational training programs, continuous implementation of Agency-imposed Order of Selection requirements since 2011 has been a major contributing factor influencing DARS/DRS referrals, census, utilization, and population profiles. The impact of Order of Selection, combined with depressed workplace literacy skills (on average below the 5th grade level) that impacts general problem-solving skills and other cognitive abilities, have, in turn, exacerbated challenges leading to WWRC's Heightened Monitoring/Warning status with COE.
The largest growing disability populations are autism and autisms spectrum disorders. These trending population profiles require hands-on, experiential programming and 'wrap-around supports' to facilitate the likelihood of successful program retention, graduation, and placement. In all likelihood, DARS will remain in an Order of Selection status for the foreseeable future, so WWRC will need to continuously align its resources, staffing patterns, and service/program offerings to address complex needs of individuals with the most significant disabilities who experience multiple barriers to employment.
Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center's Vocational Training Programs prepare VR consumers for jobs in their home communities, an outcome that is directly correlated with attainment of COE CPL requirements, as well as compliance with Agency rehabilitation rate performance metrics, emerging Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) common performance measures, and Governor of Virginia workforce initiatives. Facilitating effective and efficient linkages between WWRC's training programs and statewide workforce demands, while simultaneously balancing complex and evolving disability-related needs of the VR population served through the Agency and WWRC, is an essential formula for successful attainment of the Center's employment focused mission, regardless of applied regulatory or accreditation body requirements. Since 2012 under Blueprint initiatives, WWRC has critically reviewed its structure, scope, and targeted business processes to strengthen that formula in support of its mission. This has resulted in significant changes that are discussed in more detail in the Standard 4: Strategic Planning.
It is WWRC's practice to continuously and proactively anticipate and respond to ever-changing factors that impact successful employment of its student population, regardless of how this is measured or which regulatory/accreditation body applies. Internal organizational scrutiny has been tightened over recent years, necessitated, in part, by WWRC's Heightened Monitoring status with COE and required actions. In previous years, the economy was a major contributing factor, but as reported in the Institutional and Community Characteristics section of this Self-Study, Virginia's economy has stabilized and improved in recent years. Over the past year, WWRC has leveraged resources of the DARS (DRS/WWRC) Business Development Team as a new structure for its Institutional Advisory Committee, to more closely align with statewide economic and labor market demands as a strategy to update existing training program curricula as well as develop new training programs consistent with growth industries and identified industry skill gaps across the Commonwealth. WWRC has also partnered more closely with DRS Placement and Rehabilitation Counselors to gain knowledge of: potential access to internship opportunities in a consumer's home community; shared job leads; and, the availability of local community resources to support and promote employment retention. These actions are anticipated to improve WWRC's placement rate over time.
Additional strategies implemented, or soon to be implemented, to improve placement rates are listed below:
The Accreditation Self-Study Committee finds WWRC in compliance with Standard 3 requirements to maintain individual student progress data as part of the official record and to submit accurate and verifiable program completion, placement, and licensure data to COE annually for comparison with negotiated benchmarks. WWRC has always been responsive and has taken timely actions required by the Commission due to program completion, placement, and licensure data failing to meet negotiated benchmarks.
WWRC has, and will continue to take strategic and intentional actions to address placement rates that do not meet the required benchmarks and have led to WWRC's current Warning Status under COE.
WWRC has a Written Plan for Follow-Up that fully meets COE Standard 3 criteria.
Evidence of compliance with COE Standard 3 will be verified through staff interviews, student interactions, team member observations and review of Self-Study materials, and file/document/record audits, as indicated.
Additional Self-Study Exhibits
The following supporting documentation and key contacts for Standard 3 are provided to supplement hyperlinks integrated within this narrative.
James Hall, CWDD Director
R.N. Anderson Training Building
Kerry Krause, Accreditation & Licensure Specialist
Dr. Kurt Sprenger. Lead PE Analyst
Mary Switzer Building
Kristen Swink, Records Management Services Director
Birsall-Hoover Medical/Administration Building