By Yvonne Wright, Director of Workforce Engagement and Innovation, Missouri Division of Workforce Development
I’ve spent most of my career working at Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), so when the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law in 2014, I knew it was a game changer. How would we stay viable among our partners? What new challenges would we meet? How would we insure that people with disabilities have equal access to services that help them become employed? It was time to take a hard look at what VR brought to the table and capitalize on those strengths.
Now that I am working at Workforce Development, I can honestly say that we share the same perspective. These are strengths and assets that VR brings to the table and, more importantly, they are unique to VR and can truly enhance WIOA collaboration.
So what makes VR a leader in WIOA?
1. VR is a mandated core partner by Federal law.
Easy one, right? But VR leadership at both the state and local levels needs to insure they are present for all aspects of WIOA implementation. By being at the table, VR can truly continue to represent the people they serve, but also have a say in painting the landscape for the look of the entire public workforce system.
2. VR has unique and specialized services that support the job seeker with disabilities.
One of those services is supported employment. Workforce Development does not provide job coaching as part of their services, so this fills a unique need in partnership. Other services, such as on-the-job training, educational assistance and supportive services, such as transportation assistance, may also be provided through other partners, but this gives all partners the opportunity to braid services and funding to eliminate barriers and get that person working.
3. VR is a beast at business outreach!
With a national footprint through VR’s National Employment Team (NET), and connections in all states for any business with multiple locations, VR is a force to be reckoned with. VR’s business outreach provides a true depth of service involvement with a business that is unequaled in the public workforce system.
4. VR can truly help make a difference.
Assistance with implementing section 188 of WIOA, participation in one-stop certifications and significant involvement in creating the state and local plans are just a few ways that VR can have a profound contribution to how services are delivered to persons with disabilities.
5. Bottom line: No one other than VR knows how to serve persons with disabilities better.
VR brings knowledge, expertise and true passion to the WIOA collaboration. There is truly no agency better equipped and poised to lead the way in insuring the highest quality services to help people with disabilities go to work.
The majority of Yvonne Wright’s career was spent with the Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Prior to leaving VR, she was the Director of Workforce Development and Business Engagement. In this capacity she coordinated business outreach services for the agency, and was the primary implementer of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act not only for VR but with the WIOA Core partners. In June of 2018, Yvonne was recruited by Missouri’s Division of Workforce Development as the Director of Workforce Engagement and Innovation. This position is the first of its kind in the nation among workforce agencies, as well as unique in that the position was filled by someone from Vocational Rehabilitation. In her current role, Yvonne continues to oversee WIOA implementation and continues to expand partnership and collaboration with Missouri agencies so that all job seekers have opportunity for success.