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Jun 9, 2023

Dr. Jim Herbert, Professor of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation and Human Services at Penn State, joins us in the studio today. In this first part of a two-part series, Jim discusses the recruitment challenges identified in his study- Recruitment and Retention of State Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors: A Mixed Methods Analysis.


Please listen in as Carol and Jim unpack this study and discuss the four significant challenges and possible solutions you can apply to your situation.


Stay tuned as the focus shifts to the retention side of the study by Dr. Jim Herbert in the next episode of Manager Minute.


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Full Transcript:



Speaker1: Manager Minute brought to you by the VRTAC for Quality Management, Conversations powered by VR, one manager at a time, one minute at a time. Here is your host Carol Pankow.


Carol: Well, welcome to the Manager Minute Doctor Jim Herbert, Professor of Counselor, Education and Rehabilitation and Human Services at Penn State, is joining me in the studio today to discuss his recently released study, Recruitment and Retention of State Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, A Mixed Methods Analysis. I am so happy to have you here today. How are things going in Pennsylvania?


Jim: Well, first off, I'm happy to be had and things are going very well in Pennsylvania. It's a beautiful summer day and the nice thing is that many academician might appreciate it. While we love students, summer session, they're not here, which means you can get parking spaces downtown, lots of restaurants. You don't have to wait a long time to get in. So it's a good time and good place to be in State College, Pennsylvania.


Carol: Oh, that's awesome. Say, are you getting any of that wildfire smoke from Canada?


Jim: You know, it's funny you say that because we just got an alert that indicated like over the next couple of days, Yeah, it's going to be coming this way.


Carol: Yeah, we definitely got hit with it the last two days. And I saw it moving off to the East Coast, looked like the apocalypse here. It was very, very weird. So to set the stage for our listeners, I first met you through the CSVAR Operations and Personnel Committee, and I used to co-chair the old version of that committee. It was called The old HRD with Cynthia Speight, and I continued to participate in it when I entered the TA world. And so back in the day, Cynthia and I were super interested in recruitment, retention issues of counselors. And I'm talking like, this is probably like eight years ago now. And we had done several surveys with state agencies to kind of gauge where they were at with getting new counselors. And we kept seeing this shrinkage of people entering the field and the reduction in universities offering a master's in rehab counseling. And then you came to that committee to collaborate on a study you were doing that was partly supported by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehab Research or NIDILRR,


Jim: right.


Carol: And so in the executive summary, you noted that there had been a consistent shortage of qualified rehab counselors employed by the state federal VR program for actually several decades. I mean, we're kind of thinking this is a new deal. And it's like this has been going on for quite some time and the Covid 19 pandemic really exacerbated the shortage. And you were also looking at the funding RSA provided to graduate programs that encouraged individuals to work and to be in VR. And you wanted to see like what happened after that two year kind of payback phase. And really, I found that interesting, that the funding had been provided for 65 years, but there had been no formal study about the scholars continuing their employment with VR after that period of time. So your study primarily examined recruitment, retention, concerns of the state vocational rehab agencies, and you identified strategies to address those. And in addition, you looked to see if there was a mechanism to track that long term employment outcome of the former RSA scholars working for the state VR program. So we're going to do this in two parts because you have a lot of stuff you did, and I think our listeners will kill us if we're going to do a two hour podcast. So we're not everybody just stay buckled in. We're going to tackle in two parts. And Jim and I are going to talk today about the retention side of the project. And then next month we are going to talk about the recruitment part of this. So, all right, enough background. Let's dig in. So, Jim, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, like how long you've been in academia? How did you get there?


Jim: How did I get here? Well, I've been an Academician here at Penn State for 37 years. And where did the time go in terms of kind of how I got here? Probably like a lot of your audience, when you think about people that work in the rehab field, a lot of times you get in the rehab field because they have either personal experience with disability or a family member. And that's exactly what happened to me. I had a brother who had Down syndrome, and so I got interested and did volunteer work on high school and in college. And I loved working with people with developmental disabilities. That's how I got interested in rehab. And then during my, you know, college, I knew I wanted to work with people. But a lot of times, you know, when we teach career development, we kind of make it sound like it's this very logical process that you, you know, pluses and minuses and I going to do this. And yet we fail to acknowledge there's a lot of things by fate that impact on your career choice. You just happen to be in this office who you just happened to say something who happened to know somebody else who happened to have this job. So when I look back at my own career, one of the things I tell my students is that, yeah, you can plan and you want to be in a position to have opportunities. To come, but there's a lot of things you can't control and there's a lot of things that just sort of happen, if you will. Some might say by divine providence. I don't know if that's the case. But anyway, there's a lot of things that you can't plan. So in my own career, how I got that was sort of a combination of just fate happen to be in this place at this time. And then obviously preparation in terms of formal education and experience. But yeah, it's gone by fast.


Carol: I love that when you said 37 years, we probably have some listeners out there going, I'm not even 37 years old right now. And I was thinking this year I just had my 37th anniversary. And so you and I have been around for a little bit more than a minute. I think that's cool. But I love that that you said by fate, I think a lot of us have fallen into our career trajectory truly by fate in whatever kind of circumstance. Like you said, you came into it at the time. So what went into approaching this study and kind of how long have you been at this?


Jim: Yeah, it's funny. As far as doing this study, how I kind of got interested in it was I mean, I've been a project director for many RSA training grants throughout that time period. There's a lot of investment that you make and help students become rehab counselors and Penn State I think like many universities, we have a strong commitment to the state VR program. You know, I've always said that I feel that State VR people, you should have the best trained people to address the difficult needs and complex needs of people with disabilities have. So there's a lot of investment that's made. And then also, as you know, after they graduate and they get supported through RSA traineeship, they'll typically work for every one year of support, two years of full time employment. So if they work for a state agency, there's a lot of investment the agency makes. You'll often hear it takes 2 to 3 years before you just kind of feel like, I know this job. So when you combine that, you see the amount of financial investment and professional investment that educators and practitioners make. And so over the years when I've had a chance to meet with a number of our former alumni and what are you doing? And one of the things I notice is some of them would be working for a state agency, and then after a couple of years, they do their two year payback and said, I'm out of here. It's like, man, you know, what's going on? What's happening here? What are we doing? And what I came to learn talking with other educators across the country is it's not something I think, wow, is this something just unique to us? Maybe we're doing something wrong here. Maybe we need to do a better job, which of course, we could always do. But what I learned anecdotally was that, no, this seems to be kind of a nationwide problem. So you had that on top of I was interested. So what research has been done to look at the long term effectiveness of the RSA training program? And what I learned was I could not find any study throughout that whole history. I thought that was kind of interesting because I know we followed in the first two years, but after the payback period, that's it. So that started a pilot project that I had done. So I was just interested what happened with the people that came through Penn State, received the RSA Scholarship and worked. And what I learned from that pilot study, even though the data was a small sample size, I learned when we look at the percentage of people who are at the agency versus those that worked at Non State VR, I learned that it was significantly higher. The rate of people who are intending to leave the state VR. So that kind of rang some bells for me. And from there, with that pilot data, we then decided to undertake this three year study to investigate what's going on and more maybe not necessarily more importantly, but just as importantly, what can we do about it? So we are just finishing our second year of data and today and next month, we'll talk about some of the results of what are some of the things that we found from that study. So that's really kind of how this whole thing emerged.


Carol: I really love that you tackled this because that was so interesting to me, especially when you were looking at 65 years of this program. But there was nothing done like there had been no study of what happened to the people. I'm sure as you were talking to directors and I used to be a director, you know, anecdotally we could see and tell you, like we knew in Minnesota, I felt like we were the training grounds for the VA. And so, you know, staff would come in, they would do an internship with us, come on board, Yay, you know, and all of that. And then the next thing you know, there's skedaddled over to the VA because they could make like 20,000 more a year starting. It was crazy. So it's like, how do we combat that? And we'll get to some of that. You had definitely some ideas for folks on how to do it, but I was really super pleased to see what you had undertaken there. So let's talk about the recruitment challenges that you identified in the study. What are the top challenges that VR is facing?


Jim: Right now, the first thing I'm going to tell you, I'm sure your listeners are going to go, duh. I mean, the first big challenge is we don't have enough applicants. We don't have enough people applying for the jobs. And there's a lot of reasons for that. And I'd like to unpack maybe just a few of them. But one of the big things that states are constantly saying is years past, maybe we'd have a job opening and we might have 15-20 applicants today. We might be lucky if we can get a couple and in some cases we get none. So the big problem is we don't have a sufficient number of qualified job applicants. That's, you know, the big thing. So it's like people don't know about us. People don't know how to kind of how's this process work? To varying degrees, I think educators do kind of a mixed job on how do we market this. So why would you want to become a state VR counselor? You know, if you ask college students who want to be counselors, social workers, psychologists, and say, hey, there's this thing called a state counselor, it's like, what? What is that? I don't know. What do they do? That's a big, big problem. Another big, big problem that we have is look at the bureaucracy.

You and I, we've had a history of and I'm still working in the bureaucracy here at Penn State as much as I love it. But the big thing is in that bureaucracy, the time it takes to recruit somebody, then you have to kind of review all the applicants. You have all the policies and procedures and steps and levels of people that need to review and sign off on this. Well, that process typically takes 2 to 3 months. And so you're thinking like, okay, for states that are looking and I know that regulations are changing, hiring more baccalaureate people, but especially for master's level credentialed persons, they don't have time to kind of wait two, three months to hear back from a job. If you think back to like when you know, way back in the Stone Age, when I'll just say when I graduated, you finish and you were poor and you needed money and I need to get a job and a job fast. So to ask them to wait for 2 or 3 months after they graduate, we're losing. We're losing a lot of qualified people. We need to do something about how do we reduce that time that's a little bit more manageable and a little bit more reasonable.


Carol: I hear about that from directors all the time, that hiring practices. In fact, we're doing a little bit of a pilot on recruitment retention within our VRTAC for quality management. And so you've been aware I've been working with John Connolly and Ron Vessel, John Walsh, Missy Deal and Crystal Gary on our team where we've been talking about this. We've been also coming to the Operation Personnel Committee. But one of the states we're working with, you know, it's taking them 7 or 8 months to be able to make the offer. So they literally interviewed people. And then by the time HR worked through their processes, it was eight months later. And then you're going to offer to somebody and they're like, we thought this was done because we haven't heard from you. Gosh, you're going on a year, for Pete's sakes. People aren't hanging out. And if they are hanging out, there's probably a reason they're hanging out and somebody else didn't pick them up.


Jim: You're absolutely right. Typically with state directors who we spoke with and we spoke to about 20 in the first part of this study, usually it was about 3 or 4 months. So, boy, if it's 7 to 8 months, oh, my lord, that's really, really bad. So on top of that, another big problem and this is where I think educators need to do a better job. A lot of applicants really don't understand what is it that a state VR counselor does? This might be a little controversial to say, but I think one of the things when we kind of went through the new accreditation process from CORE to CACREP and all and the counselor identity, now this is just my personal opinion. I'm not saying it represents, you know, any other constituent group. But in my opinion, I think what we've lost in that transition is we've lost a bit that the importance of career development, of job placement. We've lost, you know, kind of career counseling. And so I think students really don't understand that while I want to work in private practice, so they have this kind of idealized expectation, like, you know, I just open up my shop or I work out of my house and people just be coming and it'll be great. I'll provide good services, I'll make a good income. It doesn't work that way. It takes time to kind of do all that. And then my wife is a therapist had been doing this for 40 years. Even when you do that again, you have some idea of how you think it's going to work, and they don't really understand, like, Hey, well, what are some of the downsides of kind of private practice? And so a state view job has lots of benefits, I think, that make attractive. And one of the things I say to my students is where should I start? For me, working as a state counselor is a fantastic way to kind of get on the ground floor because you learn different systems, different agencies. You understand the whole network, and you'll also get connected in the community so you understand, you know, other providers and kind of what they do. That takes time. I think that's another problem because people have some understanding and we'll talk about the paperwork and all that. And there are definitely downsides, but there's a lot of upsides. The other big thing, no surprise, surprise, money. We don't pay them enough. We can talk about later on this podcast or the next about what certain states are doing and all. But the big problem is and you just alluded, not alluded, you actually stated that years ago, you take like the VA offer is just one example and it's like, okay, the credentials are the same. So why would I want to work at this place? It's going to pay me $20,000 less to do basically kind of very similar kinds of jobs. And so while some states have been successful in getting higher compensation, others have not. And we'll talk more about this probably in the next podcast because I do have some ideas about what you can do to address the compensation issue. So when you look at those four reasons, the fact that we don't have enough people, the fact that it takes time to go through all the recruitment that applicants, they don't really have an understanding of what's this job about? And the money, that's a deadly combination. And so we need to now think about, well, what are things that we could do to kind of make this more attractive to recruit them?


Carol: I know when we were talking money, so I did a podcast. It was in April with Scott Dennis from Maryland. For our listeners, if you didn't catch that episode, definitely go back and listen, because he was successful in getting a significant increase for his counselors and the supervisors and the regional administrators because he's in this unique position where he's surrounded by like DC and all these other states. So he goes, Gosh, we're the training ground for RSA. Like they're stealing all my people. And folks were making significantly more well by him. And this wasn't overnight. Like everybody needs to know like any of these solutions that we're going to talk about, like it takes time. Literally. They've been working on this for several years. And finally, we're able to get it through. It almost immediately stopped the bleeding because he said he was every week getting everybody was reporting up like all these resignations. And it stopped and they actually started getting people back in that used to work for him, came back and said, hey, we love that job, but now you're paying a decent wage. I will come back. I know it struck me in the study, when you go the range of pay was from like 16,000. When you're talking about like an intern, you know, and it might be like the aid type of thing up to 101,000 and you go, that is a big spread. And there's a whole lot of states talking about, you know, those master's level counselors coming out and they're making $36,000. That's not going to cut it like that is not going to cut it. So I am definitely excited as we kind of get into talking about some of the other strategies folks could use. Now, I know you called out directly that VR agencies do not have an overall strategy to develop a comprehensive recruitment plan. And recruitment really is a reactive process. When somebody leaves the agency and I know we're going to chat about retention next month, so let's talk about some strategies that might help folks on the recruitment front.


Jim: Yeah, that's right. So the first thing is, okay, when you look at traditionally like how does a state VR advertise? And often what we find is they'll do it through the State Civil Service Commission. And because that's the mechanism that historically that we've used. So we're going to continue. That's great. That's fine. But we've got to expand other outlets because number one, as I said, job applicants, many may not even know what civil servant. What is that? I don't know what civil service. I don't even know what that is. Well, we advertise there, but we have to look at accessing other networks. So the things that, you know, like indeed, and LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter, Facebook, there's just tons of social media networks that we need to be aware of. Again, I'm kind of old school, so Facebook. But yeah, I mean, my son, who's 26 TikTok and Reddit is a bunch of it anyway, so I'm not an expert on all that. But the point being is we have to think broader. So when we think about that, we have to recognize there's other tools that we're not using. Now, with that being said, and states are already starting to do this to again, historically, they've sought out rehab counseling programs as a source to say, hey, we're going to have some positions. If you have students coming out, we'd love to interview them. Great. But there are a number of states that you don't have an accredited program in your state and Savannah were fortunate because we have several, but there are some states that have none. So what they have to do in those instances, they've got to look at other programs, mental health programs and social work programs and school and psychology and substance abuse. So there are universities that have those kinds of programs. So we need to establish and I'll talk about this in a minute or two, a better working relationship with individual university program coordinators. Historically, we've had that. But in some cases, I think maybe because of the pandemic, things have kind of necessarily evaporated. But I think, you know, that relationship has been tested a little bit over the last couple of years. And not just that in terms of the network. And I think historically, State VR has done a good job in this area, but they could still do better in terms of the diversity of workforce. So there are groups I'm thinking in terms of ethnic minority groups in particular here where we need to do a better job in terms of recruitment. And so what that means is maybe we can't always rely on kind of traditional sites that many people use, but there are certain job boards and certain postings that are specifically devoted to access to underrepresented groups in terms of disability, may be wrong on this,. I think it's called recruit disability. I think there's another one called 70 million Jobs. So we have that. The other thing too, and sometimes in rural areas we have to do more and want to get back to something actually you mentioned, Carol, was I have to say this was a surprise to me. Originally we were going to do the study. We were going to interview state VR executive directors, and then the HR person who is responsible for recruitment and retention. And based on the people that responded to our surveys, we didn't find anybody. There's nobody that says this is my job title. Like, my job is to focus exclusively on recruitment and retention. And I think that's a big problem because that gets to what you were talking about a little bit earlier and that being that unfortunately, recruitment is kind of an afterthought. It's a reactive process. It's like, Oh, we just lost somebody. We got to recruit people to refill that well, that's the wrong way to kind of do things. That's sort of like we're reacting to something that actually happened and well, we'll get into retention next month. You know, part of that is how do we keep people? That's a separate issue, but also how do we recruit them? So we have to think, you know, what are we doing? So having a designated person who is responsible for this, I can't think of a more important aspect than recruiting and retaining your workforce. Lots of problems. But if you don't have a qualified workforce that is going to be around, everything else is kind of a moot point.


Carol: So I agree 100%, because I even think back to our old agency that I came from in Minnesota, we didn't really have a recruitment strategy. And in our agency, we were in a labor agency. We had all these programs. You know, you've got adult dislocated worker and Wagner-Peyser, and we've got unemployment insurance and disability determination services and all this stuff. And they finally did. They they're like, Oh, we're going to get one dedicated person who's recruiting for all of it, like for every division. And you go, okay, for one, we all vastly do way different work and having some strategies, you know? So you've got this one person I'm going to go to the career fair over at blah blah, blah place. Oh, good grief. You know, we had to all kind of help pitch in to get the message out because a lot of times, you know, on that state website, you know, your career opportunities for the state our ads suck. I mean, they aren't very good. They're not very appealing. It's like, oh, come work for us, blah, blah, blah. It doesn't sound very interesting. And I remember the very first time I was like, okay, heck, no, we are not having that. And I rewrote that advertisement and like, come and join us for this like, mission driven organization and all of that. And people were like, Oh, I don't know if we're allowed to do stuff like that. And we had people apply because they're like, We've never seen an advertisement like that, you know, just getting in some of that fresh thinking. But that is something that VR can think about. Maybe you do only have one person in the agency, but then within your own group, is there a way you can have someone that can assist in helping to like make those advertisements appealing? Can they help to get the word out? I know our colleagues in North Carolina, General, they did a really cool thing through Facebook. They were writing really cool, like, why you want to come and be on my team? I'm like, I would answer that ad like, that was awesome. I think VR has got to get in there and advocate and see how they can help be part of the solution for this.


Jim: You're absolutely right. And again, that's where, you know, kind of the history. Well, we've always done it this way. Well, that doesn't mean that we need to keep doing it that way. In any kind of professional reports that I've written about the study. I wouldn't say, you know, the way we post is sucks, but actually you're absolutely correct. That's exactly I mean, you read these job postings and say, well, is this intriguing? Like, my God, this thing sounds boring as hell. Why would I ever want to work that? No, thanks, but no thanks. And you mentioned North Carolina. That individual also participated in the study. And one of the things I remember that she had done was talking about not just how we do it, but the consistency. In other words, a state position, the same job. It's written one way in one city, it's written another way in another city. So wait a minute, how can we have the same job? And it's, you know, so we got to make sure that, number one, that the information is consistent across. But number two and the larger point that you're hammering on and I would agree, we have to think, especially with the newer applicants, again, I'm baby boomer I'm just about boomed out. But the Gen Z the millennials not to stereotype but I think they have a different view, a different way of thinking as it relates to this job seeking process. So we have to make it present, not just the job. Why do you want to work here in this office? What's unique, if you come in the Philadelphia office, what is it that we got that's so doggone special that you're going to love as opposed to Pittsburgh as opposed to Altoona or Harrisburg? So that's where we have to think a little bit more about on a unit level like and you know this and I know our listeners know this, you can go into one district office and the climate may be you can feel the vibe and you can go to another district office and there's another vibe. And that largely depends on the leadership and the sensitivity. And so you can go in and go, Wow, You know, these folks, they look like they're having fun and then, oh, this doesn't look like much fun. This is not fun. And so you have to be sincere, but you have to think I mean, that gets into a whole other issue in terms of climate, which we'll that's another topic. But anyway, the point being is if you feel like, you know, this is a good place to work, what makes it a good place? Explain to me in simple language why you want to come here. And so that's something. So while you can have the standardized because sometimes states regulations and all it has to be you can have standardized narrative, but you can also incorporate a section on why do you want to come here at this office? This is what we can offer you. This is why it's cool to work here.


Carol: And that's completely controllable, you know, like having that little added narrative, just by like we need to use our words and speak up. I think people get used to the system sort of happening to us and with our situation happening in VR, like we got to stand up and go, Hey, like that isn't working because I'm getting zero applicants from that crappy announcement. Can we just change this wording? I know we need to have in our very specific things, you know, there's required, but can I have a paragraph that I can add at the top and it can be done? We've talked to people and they're like, Well, I don't know if we can do that. Did you ask? Because for sure you're never going to get to do it if you don't ask. You need to at least use your words and ask and show them an example like, Here's all your blah blah stuff, but I need this in there to just like punch them right away. Like how and grab them. This is going to be a really cool opportunity and that is in our control.


Jim: Again, you're hammered that point very well. And sometimes people like the system or those guys, it's like, who are those guys? You know, to quote a line from a Butch Cassidy Sundance movie. So that's a movie for the baby boomers. But any rate, who are those guys? Well, we are those guys. And you're right, so often we don't even ask. We just assume this is the way. Well, could we? Oh, I don't know. No one's asked that. The other thing, too, that we talked about is the time, the time it takes before you get the job announcement and you go through this whole rigmarole and you actually hire can be months or, you know, in your case, three quarters of a year. I mean, that's unbelievable. So the question is, well, what can we do about that? It's funny because now I got North Carolina on the brain and because for confidentiality, I could probably mention but indicate I wouldn't mention people's names, but just say North Carolina, I'll leave it at that. You know, one of the things that what was happening that they identified was, well, why does it take so doggone long? What is going on there? Because the director is here and, you know, all kinds of complaints. Why, you know, from the managers and blah, blah, blah. So what things that she found that was important is like, well, let's talk with the HR people and say, can we do anything to kind of make this a little bit shorter? And so you had these like everything else, it all comes down to the R word relationship. So suddenly, like, I have a relationship with HR and I can contact them. They know me, I know them. We've built up mutual trust here. We're not just sort of a voice on the telephone or that kind of a thing. And so what they learned is, well, there are some things that we can do for reducing that lag time, but it all really kind of depended on staying on top of it. You know, so, hey, we advertise this thing last week. Where are we? What's the process? So we have to monitor and see this again. That makes a big difference when you have a designated person that says, my job. We have 25 vacancies in the state office this year. My job, part of it is finding out where are we? What's happening? What's going on? How many people? So it's that constant monitoring, following up, asking questions. So you have that. The other thing is like, well, procedurally we said, well, kind of reduce. Well, agencies, there's all kinds of background checks. You know, you got criminal background checks, you got child abuse, history clearances, motor vehicle. Sometimes you need to have those kinds of records. Some of that documentation could be done up front. So, in other words, as the application. So maybe that's part of the you know, hey, be aware that we need these. So you're already telling the applicant get started on this because it takes usually 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes a little longer. But if you kind of start that up front as opposed to 3 or 4 weeks into the, well, now we've just added on to that. So what can we do? So one of the things I know, like what I'll say to my students is most places now require you to do these background checks, whether you're going to state or not, to have these kinds of background checks, especially obviously if you're working with children or adolescents, get all that documentation from the very beginning so that when you begin the process, we're all ready to go. So I already have that information. Now, the other thing, too, again, I don't want to get too far in the retention aspect, but, you know, a lot of times like, okay, why do people leave? And one of the reasons is we'll talk about next month is people leave because they don't really understand the job as it relates to recruitment. Then there are a couple states at the moment, I can't say exactly which ones, but I do remember there are a couple states that what they had done is and I found this really interesting, is part of the recruitment process and to address the problem of what were you expecting, what was your understanding about this job? So as part of the recruitment process and the interview process, what they did was they would allow the applicant to actually job shadow a state counselor for maybe a day. You can learn a lot of information. And we know that when we have greater samples of behavior, we have stronger predictive outcomes. You know, they can see like the good, the bad and the ugly of this job. So some people might say, well, boy, if you do that, you know, we might not get that person. Well, maybe that's a good thing. Like this person. I'm not really sure this job is for me now after doing it. Yeah, I kind of think no, I don't think this is the job for me. At the same token, you have people like, Hey, I get this a little bit more. You know, I think this would actually be kind of a pretty cool job. The other thing and I can just talk more from my experience working with students who predominantly, not surprisingly, they're going to work for the state VR program would be here in Pennsylvania. And I get it. Because of hiring, you know, we have to be consistent. But sometimes, like that whole process almost sounds robotic. It's like you can't be human. You know, you have to ask these questions and you can't kind of deviate. And I'm not saying kind of break policy on that, but I would ask the again, this is the point that you made. Well, we've always done it that way. Well, did anybody ask do we have any kind of latitude here? Can we do some other things? So in other words, as they go through that initial screening process, one of the things happened is not that you have kind of the formal but you also have kind of an informal process. So one of the things that I know students really appreciate is if they have an alum who's working at that district office. So it's like, well, yeah, you graduated from Penn State two years ago as Dr. Herbert. Yeah, that guy, he's still there. They can't get rid of him. So then they have kind of a natural connection. So what states are doing is like, well, want to have kind of informal kind of get together. So maybe after you go through the formal process, you give everybody the opportunity. Some would say, yep, that sounds good. Others, no, I don't want to do that. But you give everyone the same opportunity. Would you like to talk with some of our, you know, Richard Bolles, who maybe some of your audience might not know who he is, wrote a book called What Color is Your Parachute? It's all about career and fantastic.

Well, anyway, one of the things I remember many, many, many years ago when I first saw him, he said there's two decisions being made in the interview. The first is, do we want you? Do we want the job applicant? But the more important decision is do they want us? We got to pay more attention to that aspect we represent. So when you're interviewing, you know, like who are they interviewing with? It's like, what's the energy that you're communicating with? Yeah, we need to do a better job with that. The other thing I'll just kind of finish up on. This aspect is I talked about the importance of relationship, and that's the same thing here, states and rehab educators. We need to kind of reengage, if you will. I think because of the pandemic. I think that relationship to some extent has kind of impacted. And so make sure that you have a working relationship with your individual program directors and also to think about like, well, when jobs are going to be available, you know, let's say, hey, we're going to have something in May, well, usually they might contact us maybe in April. If you can be a little bit more proactive, if you know something's coming down the pipe, let us know earlier because then we can kind of, hey, these are coming available.

I guess the final thing I'll just say, we've done this historically in Pennsylvania and over the last couple of years, it's been phased out. I'm hoping it'll get back phased in. Think about allocating a portion of your budget to offering paid internships. If you can give students the opportunity to say, look, it's a paid internship, you're going to get some income because they're poor, even though they have the training grant. Most programs, that's not going to cover all of the expenses. So providing that kind of paid internship. And in Pennsylvania, I'll say we're fortunate they also provide medical benefits. So you do the paid internship if you do a good job, you know that, Wow, you're going to be hired here. Maybe not this particular office. We do an internship, but one of these offices. And so giving that kind of opportunity and also more importantly is then you can see, I mean, the job interview, anybody can fake it for an hour or two. But when you have somebody for 15 weeks, you know, whether or not, you know, hey, this is a person we want to retain or we don't want to retain. Yeah. So I feel like I've been a little gerbils speed up, but hopefully that that kind of covered it.


Carol: No, I love it. Jim. I think the important thing is to take away from this conversation today is that really VR has got to look at this differently. We cannot be operating the same way we operated 20 years ago. Like times have changed. So we have to deal with the situation where we're at today. We need to be proactive instead of reactive. There are a number of things within our control and we should be good at like we're people, people, relationship building that's in our… like we're good at that, Like buy a muffin for those people. I used to tell folks that whatever you need to do to grease the skids to get things rolling, like really working proactively, looking at your messaging, looking at I love that. Paying for the internships for the folks. Absolutely. We started doing that. I can't believe when I first came, it's like, okay, we're going to have interns come in and we're not going to pay them. Well, nobody has any money. Like, what's wrong with minimum wage or something? Let's give them some money so they'll come and do that. And it is a great insight into how folks can work. I really look forward to us continuing the conversation next month to go through the rest of the study. So I really appreciate your time today and definitely I will put the link for your study out with our podcast announcement as well. So thanks for joining me today. Really appreciate it.


Jim: Thank you. It's a wonderful time and I look forward to talking with you next month.


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