Introduction

The employment of individuals with disabilities is directly related to the level of awareness that the business community has of the skills and abilities that individuals with disabilities possess, their ability to function in a specific job, and the possible accommodations that may be needed so they can perform essential job functions.

In 2014, the legacy Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services established a joint approach to business services for both Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) divisions, in response to the recommendations and management actions approved by the Sunset Advisory Commission. Since the transfer of the VR programs to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), VR has continued to implement aspects of this approach, including the requirements to track services to business and implement the policies and procedures in this chapter. TWC VR anticipates a review and redesign of its business services policy in Fiscal Year 2018, as TWC continues to work toward full implementation of the integrated system envisioned by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Senate Bill 208, 84th Texas Legislature, Regular Session (2015). As VR continues to partner with Local Workforce Development Boards (Boards) and their contractors to serve employers, it will seek additional opportunities and strategies to more consistently deliver services to employers using a unified team approach with other members of Texas Workforce Solutions and the Business Services Unit in each local workforce development area (workforce area).

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A-401: Business Relations Team

The VR Business Relations Team is responsible for the delivery of all VR business services, including outreach, consultation, technical assistance, and training to support job placement and job retention for individuals with disabilities. Members of the VR Busi;ness Relations Team include state office program specialists and regional business relations coordinators, employment assistance specialists, and outreach service and coordination (OSC) teams.

A-401-1: Legal Authorization

The designated state unit may expend payments received under this part to educate and provide services to employers that have hired or are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities under the VR program, including:

(a) Providing training and technical assistance to employers regarding the employment of individuals with disabilities, including disability awareness, and the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 USC §12101 et seq.) and other employment-related laws;

(b) Working with employers to—

(1) Provide opportunities for work-based learning experiences (including internships, short-term employment, apprenticeships, and fellowships);

(2) Provide opportunities for pre-employment transition services, in accordance with the requirements under §361.48(a);

(3) Recruit qualified applicants who are individuals with disabilities;

(4) Train employees who are individuals with disabilities; and

(5) Promote awareness of disability-related obstacles to continued employment.

(c) Providing consultation, technical assistance, and support to employers on workplace accommodations, assistive technology, and facilities and workplace access through collaboration with community partners and employers, across states and nationally, to enable the employers to recruit, job match, hire, and retain qualified individuals with disabilities who are recipients of vocational rehabilitation services under this part, or who are applicants for such services; and

(d) Assisting employers with utilizing available financial support for hiring or accommodating individuals with disabilities.

CFR 34 §361.32, Provision of Training and Services for Employers

A-401-2: Vocational Rehabilitation State Office Program Specialists

TWC VR state office program specialists coordinate VR Business Relations team activities.

The TWC VR state office program specialists:

  • serve as points of contact for TWC leadership, VR Business Relations team members, and employers seeking information about VR services through the VR Business Relations website;
  • provide information, training, and technical assistance to support full implementation of functions as outlined throughout this chapter;
  • plan and facilitate quarterly VR Business Relations team meetings and training sessions;
  • are responsible for researching and identifying opportunities to improve services to businesses; and
  • represent VR on the National Employment Team of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.

A-401-3: Business Relations Coordinators

VR business relations coordinators (BRCs) work through VR regional management to connect with local business communities to learn about their hiring needs and share general information about VR services and customers. Before giving information about a customer to a business, BRCs must ensure that there is a current DARS1517-2, Authorization for Release of Confidential Customer Records and Information, in the customer's case file.

BRCs work in collaboration with Workforce Solutions Business Services Units. Their combined knowledge of labor market trends and a workforce area's talent pool enhance the services provided to customers and the business community.

BRCs are responsible for:

  • outreach and disability awareness that can include:
    • networking and marketing activities;
    • conducting business contact meetings and disability awareness presentations;
    • presenting and interacting with businesses at symposia and expositions;
    • coordinating, facilitating, and participating in job, career, and hiring fairs; and
    • collaborating with other agency stakeholders;
  • consultation, resource information, and support that can include:
    • disability awareness and/or sensitivity training;
    • worksite assessments, job analysis, and accommodations recommendations;
    • technical assistance and procedure development;
    • assistive technology assessments and training;
    • compliance issues, affirmative action, and/or diversity strategy planning; and
    • individualized business support planning and development of strategies regarding a business operational plan; and
  • job placement and retention assistance that can include:
    • job posting clarification;
    • candidate screening activities;
    • candidate training programs;
    • job order matching and/or referral;
    • new hire facilitation and follow-up; and
    • job retention activities.

A-401-4: Regional Outreach Services and Coordination Teams

The regional OSC teams are the primary points of contact in developing business partnerships at the local and regional levels. OSC teams are established at regional levels by the BRCs and regional leadership. These teams include managers, employment assistance specialists, counselors, teachers, support staff, and other VR staff members who work directly with businesses in their communities to enhance employment opportunities for customers. OSC teams identify, implement, and monitor the progress of business outreach activities across VR regions, and disseminate this information to the BRCs to develop a comprehensive statewide network for business relations.

Regional OSC teams also work in partnership with businesses to:

  • establish local resources to assist in developing a referral base and providing support services to sustain customers after they are employed;
  • work with management to conduct outreach events;
  • promote and coordinate VR Business Services deliverables to businesses;
  • identify businesses to target jobs in the workforce area served; and
  • record activities in the Business Tracking Tool.

A-401-5: Regional and Field Vocational Rehabilitation Staff

All VR staff has a role in cultivating relationships with businesses.

Regional management and program specialists:

  • coordinate with VR Managers to identify members of the regional OSC team;
  • provide additional resources and support when requested by OSC teams for business development; and
  • help to replicate successful business relationships to encourage stronger business development among OSC teams. 

VR Managers:

  • develop and monitor staff member responsibilities for outreach and services to businesses;
  • ensure that staff provides or enters required information into the Business Tracking Tool; and
  • report to regional management about collaborative efforts within VR and with other community partners for business development and field initiatives.

Field staff:

  • works with OSC teams to contact and cultivate relationships with federal contractors and business/community partnerships that support customer employment outcomes;
  • provides OSC teams with the information that must be entered into the Business Tracking Tool;
  • works with OSC teams on outreach events, business development activities, and Business Services deliverables to business customers;
  • requests OSC teams' assistance, when necessary, to enhance business or community relationships; and
  • provides accurate and timely information to OSC teams about qualified candidates looking for employment.

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A-402: Market Analysis

A-402-1: Additional Guidance and Resources

To better understand the local labor market, available employment outcomes, and the population of potential VR customers, BRCs conduct labor market analyses using community resources and Labor Market and Career Information department tools. The analysis includes:

  • labor market analysis of job trends and other factors to promote strategic employment outcomes and business development; and
  • caseload statistical analysis of specific caseloads or offices to identify job-ready customers, vocational goals, and/or historical placement trends.

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A-403: Training on Working with Businesses

A-403-1: Additional Guidance and Resources

Training opportunities are available to VR staff members who provide VR business services to increase their knowledge, awareness, and understanding of the program. The training helps staff learn how to develop effective business relations, conduct outreach and marketing activities, and recommend appropriate accommodations for customers. Training is coordinated and provided by VR BRCs and includes:

  • VR staff and contractor training;
  • field-based staff development;
  • customer referral development; and
  • assistive technology and customer accommodations.

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A-404: Business Tracking Tool

A-404-1: Using the Business Tracking Tool

VR staff that have been granted a license enter data in the Business Tracking Tool to track and maintain business partnerships and create reports. Through the Business Tracking Tool, VR staff can:

  • track outreach efforts and services provided to businesses, including those that are federal contractors, based on Business Services Unit deliverables;
  • align and track business outreach efforts with Boards; and
  • track training and capacity-building activities delivered by BRCs to VR staff.

The Business Tracking Tool serves two purposes with respect to tracking business leads. Using the Lead tab, staff can research an individual or business through contact information. Additionally, by organizing contact information, the Lead tab ensures that staff with access to the Business Tracking Tool will not duplicate efforts when generating interest and inviting the contact to meet face-to-face.

A-404-2: Business Tracking Tool License

VR staff must have a license to access the Business Tracking Tool. To request a license, regional directors must contact the VR Salesforce system administrator at TWC VR.

A-404-3: Business Tracking Tool Data Entered by a Licensed User

The VR staff member given a license to access the Business Tracking Tool is responsible for ensuring that local business partnerships are documented correctly in the system. The following data must be entered into the Business Tracking Tool:

  • Alternate Business Account Manager—This field must be completed if there is no entry in the Business Account Manager field, and would contain the name of the unlicensed individual managing the account.
  • Business Account Manager—This field contains only the name of a licensed Business Tracking Tool user. If a VR staff member is a licensed user, he or she will have a login user name and password for the Business Tracking Tool. If a VR staff member other than a licensed user is managing the account, the licensed user leaves this field blank and enters that VR staff member's name in the Alternate Business Account Manager field.
  • Business Information—On the Business Entry page, the business name is entered, along with other pertinent information about the business.
  • Business Log—The business entry must include a business log explaining what services were provided and what the next steps will be in maintaining the relationship. If the service or information being documented in the business log involved another VR staff member, that name is added to the business log by selecting the Team Member button and entering the name.
  • Contact Information—Each business added must contain a valid contact within the business. This information is added in the Contacts tab.
  • Federal Contractor—If the staff member is working with a federal contractor, he or she selects Federal Contractor in the drop-down list and uses the USAspending.gov website to verify federal contractor status. The Office of Federal Contractors and Compliance Programs uses this website when conducting reviews.
  • Lead—A lead can be, for example, a business card collected from someone whom a staff member recently met at a networking event. At this point, the staff member is interested in the individual or business named on the card but does not know whether that individual is interested in working with VR. After a face-to-face meeting is scheduled, a lead can be converted to a contact, also known as a business.
  • Texas Workforce Solutions Office—If staff is working with a business in partnership with a Workforce Solutions Office, staff checks the Workforce Solutions Office box and identifies which Board staff is working with.

A-404-4: Business Tracking Tool Data Provided by an Unlicensed User

Those who do not have access to the Business Tracking Tool can enter information into an accessible spreadsheet on the VR Business Relations page. Once the information is entered and saved, it will automatically upload into the Business Tracking Tool. For regular updates and changes, an unlicensed user must work with a licensed user.

A-404-5: Business Tracking Tool Reports

Several reports are available through the Business Tracking Tool. These reports capture data on business partnership development, which assists VR in tracking quality assurance and monitoring the progress of business partnership development. The reports also are used to inform VR management and other stakeholders about business partnership development and expansion.

These reports are in the Business Tracking Tool. In the Reports tab, staff selects the All Folders drop-down, and then selects Unfiled Public Reports to see a complete listing. To request additional reports, or to schedule a tutorial on how to create reports, staff contacts the VR Salesforce system administrator at TWC VR.

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A-405: Targeted Job Matching

A-405-1: Labor Market and Business Needs

For VR customers to gain competitive, integrated employment, VR counselors must understand the labor market and the needs and expectations of business. This understanding is critical to the vocational planning process; it helps VR and its customers build solid plans to achieve high-quality employment outcomes.

Before contacting a business, staff must:

  • match businesses to the needs and interests of job seekers;
  • check the Business Tracking Tool to determine whether VR has already been in contact with the business;
  • know basic information about the business, including:
    • the business's location and whether transportation is available;
    • the type of business and the products it makes and/or sells;
    • the business's prospects and stability; and
    • whether the business is hiring.

When working with a business, staff must remember that:

  • the business is a VR customer;
  • VR has a responsibility to understand the business's needs;
  • VR must adjust its services when possible to meet business needs;
  • businesses are not:
    • rehabilitation facilities (use business terminology when communicating with businesses);
    • a funding source for special initiatives; or
    • obligated to hire from any one system or organization; and
  • businesses want qualified candidates—they do not hire based on disability or out of charity.

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A-406: Employment Resources

A-406-1: Additional Guidance and Resources

VR provides key services to businesses and uses other partners to streamline and enhance those services.

A-406-2: Local Workforce Development Boards and Workforce Solutions Offices

The 28 Boards and 191 Workforce Solutions Offices in Texas offer a single point of contact for both the business community and those seeking employment. Services provided by Boards and Workforce Solutions Offices include:

  • employer services;
  • WIOA youth and adult services;
  • veteran services;
  • job seeker resources and training; and
  • labor market information.

Each VR office must have a staff member assigned to its Workforce Solutions Office to ensure that VR and Workforce Solutions Office staffs are aware of the services offered by each, and to keep the BRC informed on pertinent employer-related activities.

VR and Workforce Solutions Office staffs are strongly encouraged to partner to expand training and opportunities for VR customers and Workforce Solutions business partners. VR staff must have VR customers register with WorkInTexas.com, which matches job seekers to jobs posted by business partnerships.

A-406-3: Referrals to Workforce Solutions Offices

A service record must be created for all referrals to Workforce Solutions Offices. When creating a service record in ReHabWorks, staff must use "Arranged" as the payment method.

Staff then selects the following specifications to create a service record for referrals:

  • Level 1—Support Services for VR customers
  • Level 2—Arranged Services at Workforce Solutions Offices
  • Level 3—Referrals to and services from Workforce Solutions Offices
  • Level 4—Appropriate service from drop-down list

Staff must not generate a service authorization for Workforce Solutions Office referrals.

A-406-4: The National Vocational Rehabilitation Business Network

In addition to the VR Business Relations team, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) is working with businesses and state VR agencies to develop a national VR business network, the NET (National Employment Team). The vision is for the creation of a coordinated approach to serving business customers through a national VR network that specializes in employer development, business consulting, and corporate relations. TWC VR program specialists are the points of contact for CSAVR's NET. They pass along job leads and information to the regional business relations coordinators.

For additional information, see the CSAVR Business Relations page.

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