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Facing the future: readying rehabilitation for the year 2000.

Facing the Future: Readying Rehabilitation for the year 2000

As the rehabilitation counselor sits down with the new client, he or she must write the Individualized Written Rehabilitation plan with the year 2000 in mind. For some counselors, intent on closing the case, this may seem like a tall order. But, the client is being rehabilitated for a career, not just a job. Clients under fifty years of age will still be in the labor force in the year 2000. If they are not rehabilitated for the world of tomorrow, they will have to be rehabilitated again, tomorrow.

Workforce 2000, Work and Workers for the 21st Century, a landmark study by the Hudson Institute (1987), commissioned by the Department of Labor, gives us a glimpse of how the workforce will be shaped. Its purpose is "to furnish basic intelligence on the job market that we can use in evaluating the adequacy of our public policies and, where needed, undertaking new policy initiatives" (Semerad, 1987, p. vii). This article will compare and contrast the statistics in this report with statistics published by Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) in its 1985 and 1986 annual reports to the President and the Congress.

It is hoped that this article will accomplish two things. First, this data may encourage Rehabilitation Services Administration to study and analyze their policies to assure the system does as much as possible to enable people with counselors consider these terms careers. Secondly, it is hoped that counselors consider these statistics as they work with their clients.

The profession of rehabilitation was deeply influenced by World War II and the need to help returning veterans. It developed and grew, witht eh vision of Mary Switzer, and the impact of historical forces such as the New Deal and the Great Society. Now, during a time of decreasing resources, it faces a new challenge, getting ready for a world which is believed to be changing more rapidly than ever before.

Workforce 2000 (1987) identifies three major trends which will particularly influence the nation. they are:

* The workforce is changing demographically. Tomorrow's worker is more likely to be older, female, disadvantaged and a member of a minority group.

* Service industries, which "create economic value without creating a tangible product" (Hudson, 1987, p. 20) will increase their share of workers and of the gross national product. Manufacturing will decline.

* Employees will need higher skill levels. One third of tomorrow's job will be filled by college graduates. Today 22% of jobs are filled by college graduates.

This article will examine each trend to assess how the rehabilitation system is responding.

The Workforce Changes Demographically

A major change facing the nation is the aging of the American workforce. The median age of the american workforce will rise from 35 (now) to 39 by the year 2000. In 1985, 38% of workers were age 35-54, compared with the projected 51% in the year 2000 (Hudson, 1987).

This change is a challenge and an opportunity. On the one hand, older workers will be more experienced and stable. On the other hand, older workers tend to be more rigid, less willing to move to a new location or to learn a new vocation. Workforce 2000 (1987) calls for national policy changes to maintain the flexibility of an aging workforce. Older, well-paid workers who are not willing to change jobs may make their company less competitive against firms with younger workers. Policy changes suggested in the report were pension systems that allowed the worker to move from job to job without penalty and a national consensus that retraining is a lifelong affair.

It is crucial that RSA meet the challenge of an aging workforce. Yet, in 1985, 28.3% of the rehabilitants with severe disabilities and 27.8% of the non-severely disabled people were aged 35-54. This percentage is far lower than their 38% representation in the workforce. The discrepancy is larger in the people over 55 who make up half (50%) of the workforce and only 6.9% of rehabilitants with severe disabilities and 4.8% of those with non-severe disabilities (Department of Education [DOE] 1985).

RSA has made a clear and appropriate decision to emphasize those who are making the decision to transition from school to work. They are the workers of the future. Nevertheless, it is essential to develop a service system ready to respond to the aging workforce. Some attention is being focused on this issue. For example, in 1987, the Eleventh Mary E. Switzer Memorial Seminar was on "The Aging Workforce: Implications for Rehabilitation" (Perlman and Austin, 1987). This report pointed towards a need for a national system of rehabilitating older workers. The document suggested that collaborative and innovative models for service delivery be developed and that pre-service and inservice training be provided to rehabilitation service provides.

One policy proposed in Workforce 2000 (1987) is development of a national consensus that people must expect to retain for anew jobs at various points in their career and that systems should support such education. In the United States, rehabilitation is perceived of as over when the worker begins work and remains on the jobs for 60 days. However, recently, a new case status (32) for post-employment services was added to the rehabilitation system. It is usually used for minor restoration services or transportation. It can be used by counselors for retaining (Larry Mars, personal communication, April 4, 1987). For example, an employer is computerizing his factory. He would like to provide accommodation to retrain his workers who has a disability but the cost would be an undue hardship. In this case, the counselor could provide services through status 32. REtraining is not a common use of rehabilitation funding, but as the need grows, it may be more highly utilized.

Minorities are becoming a larger proportion of the workforce. Slightly less than a third (29%) of the new entrants into the labor force will be non-white between now and the year 2000 (Hudson, 1987). A significant proportion of the RSA case load (one out of five) consists of minorities (DOE, 1986). These statistics could indicate a readiness on the part of rehabilitation to meet the changing workforce or they could show a need for further outreach to minority populations.

One long-standing program of RSA, The Handicapped Migratory Agricultural and Seasonal Farm Worker Program served over 3,000 hadicapped migrant workers in FY 1985 (DOE, 1985). Experiences gained through this discretionary grant program may help RSA meet the challenge of immigration. It is projected that immigratns will become the largest proportion of the new workers. Six hundred thousand new immigrants will enter the US each year until the year 2,000. Two-thirds of them will enter the labor force (Hudson, 1987). Already, despite a movement towards legislating English as the United States official language, some state departments of rehabilitation are printing their materials in Spanish.

Large numbers of females will enter the workforce. Almost two-thirds of the new entrants between now and the year 2000 will be women (Hudson, 1987). Approximately 43% of rehabilitants were female during FY 1986 (DOE, 1986). One encouraging sign is the lessening use of the "homemaker closure" and its replacement with women being hired in competitive labor. In 1986, 14.5% of severely disabled and 6.4% of non-severely disabled left the rehabilitation service system as homemakers (DOE, 1986). In 1984, 11% of people left the rehabilitation system as homemakers. In 1983, 12.6% became homemakers, and in 1982, the percentage was 13.6 (DOE, 1985).

Employers will have to respond to the need to integrate work with family life, and flextime, part-time jobs and work at home will ecome more common (Hudson, 1987). The traditional job a forth-hour week in an office, will become less usual. The increase in female workers is only one reason for this trend. Technology is breaking down the barrier between the office and the home (Hudson, 1987). For example, many people can use computers at home and telephones in their work. Service industries are more likely to be part time and have non-traditional hours. These tendencies towards flexibility will be very helpful to people with disabilities and reasonable accommodation a concept that also applies to able-bodied people.

Service Industries Grow

Service industries, which "create economic value without creating a tangible product" (Hudson, 1987, p. 21) will increase their share of workers and of the gross national product. Health care, education, government, retailing, and the hospitality industry will provide many of the jobs of tomorrow.

Technical, managerial, and sales jobs will also increase. The jobs with the largest increase between today and the year 2000 followed by the percentage increases are (Hudson, 1987, p. 97):

* Lawyers and Judges--71%

* Natural, Computer and Mathematical Sciences--68%

* Health Diagnosing and Treating Occupants--53%

* Technicians--44%

* Engineers, Architects, and Surveyors--41%

* Social Scientists--40%

* Marketing and Sales--39%

* Managerial and Management Related--39%

* Writers, ARtists, Entertainers, and Athletes--39%

In contrast, manufacturing will decline. For example, 8% less machine operators and 7% less hand workers and assemblers will be needed (Hudson, 1987). The implications to rehabilitation facilities which depend on traditional contracts such as pallet making and light assembly are clear.

How is the national rehabilitation system responding to the change in available jobs from manufacturing to services? Unfortunately, the statistics show an increase in industrial placements. The greatest gains in placements were recorded in these jobs rising from 27.1% in 1983 to 30.0% in 1984 (DOE, 1986).

On the other hand, two major national initiatives, Projects with Industry (PWI) and Supported Employment, emphasize the new jobs. The supported employment program, which places disabled people in competitive jobs and trains them as they work, emphasizes service industries. Projects with Industry, which emphasizes partnership between industry and rehabilitation and integration of the client into competitive employment settings, definitely reflects the new jobs. According to a 1986 evaluation of the PWI, "The jobs obtained by PWI participants are likely to be in a service, sales, or clerical occupation" (Hayward, 1987, p. 23). Approximately half of the participants were placed. Through the Electronic Industries Foundation, people with disabilities obtain jobs in the electronics industry and through IBM, Control Data Corporation, and Arkansas Industries for the Blind, disabled people are trained and placed in computer technology and data processing. These and other PWIs are making their clients ready to be effective in the jobs of the future.

One of the major national policy challenges promulgated in Workforce 2000 (1987) is improving productivity in the service industries. People with disabilities can help the United States reach this objective. Physical strength appears to be becoming less important in the jobs of the future. In order to assist future workers with disabilities participate in the service industries and professions, they will need training in the necessary skills which are higher level than those needed in the jobs of today.

Higher Skill Levels Needed

Stronger academic skills will be needed for many of the new jobs. As mentioned previously in this article, one-third of tomorrow's jobs will be filled by college graduates. Today, 22% of jobs require college completion (Hudson, 1987). Another fact proving the same point is that an average of 13.5 years of education will be required by 2000. Today, only 12.8 years are necessary (Hudson, 1987).

The issue is skills as well as education. According to Department of Labor analysis (Hudson, 1987), the higher growth jobs require the highest level of skills. For example, when jobs are ranked according to the level of skill required, natural scientists and lawyers are the two professions on the top of the list. The number of employees needed for these two professions is projected to increase approximately 70% by the year 2000. These professions also require the highest level of skills, while machine setters and hand working occupations require the lowest level of skills. The amount of workers needed for these two professions will decrease by 7% in the year 2000.

Clearly, education is crucial to clients of rehabilitation services. Yet as of FY '84 (DOE, 1985), the latest publicly available statistics, the number of rehabilitants who were sent to colleges and universities was 10.9%, the lowest number in a decade. On the other hand, training in vocational and trade school increased (13.4%), the largest amount ever. The skill levels required for successful completion of vocational and trade school are higher than generally believed. However, the projections regarding the needs of the workforce of the future may point to a stronger case for the cost effectiveness of higher education.

Programs for students in higher education are developing. Today, there are over 750 disabled student service programs in higher education, according to Association of Handicapped Student Service Programs in Post Secondary Education (J. Jarrow, personal communication, March 31, 1987). And, the proportion of disabled students is increasing. In 1985, 7.4% of the nation's freshmen said they had disabilities vs. 2.6% in 1978 (Hippolitus, 1986, p. 2). Today's trend towards partnership between rehabilitation and secondary schools needs to be further extended to rehabilitation and colleges and universities.


The rehabilitation community must respond to these trends to assure that today's clients are working tomorrow and that it is ready for the clients of the future. Specifically, this means adapting to its changing case load, which will probably reflect the changing workforce--older, more female, more minorities, and more disadvantaged. Disabled people need training for the jobs of the future which will be in the servic eindustries such as health care, education, retailing, government, trade and finances. Projections show that this will require more education and training, particularly in post-secondary education.

The rehabilitation counselor, along with most of today's helping professionals, faces a difficult challenge. Each counselor should be supported in responding to these changes through the policies of Rehabilitation Services Administration and their own state vocational rehabilitation system. These agencies, with the assistance of Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, must develop policies which are responsive to these trends and the resultant needs of industry and government. Clients today need training for the jobs of tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it is hoped that this article encourages each rehabilitation counselor to write each Individualized Written Rehabilitation plan with the year 2000 in mind.


Hayward, B.J., Reisner, E.G., Choosier, S. (1986, July, Aug., Sept.). Evaluation of Projects With Industry: findings and recommendations, American Rehabilitation, pp. 22-25.

Hippolitus, P. (1986). College Freshmen with Disabilities, Preparing for Employment, A Statistical Profile, (Publication No. 6-497) Washington D.C., President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Hudson Institute. (1987). Workforce 2000, Work and Workers for the 21st Century. Indianapolis, IN. Author.

Perlman L., & Austin, G.F. (Eds.). (1987). The Aging Workforce: Implications for Rehabilitation; A Report of the Eleventh Mary E. Switzer Memorial Seminar. Washington D.C.: National Rehabilitation Association.

Semerad, R.D. (1987). Foreword. In Hudson Institute, Workforce 2000, Work and Workers for the 21st Century. (pp. vii-viii). Indianapolis, IN.

U.S. Department of Education. (1986). Annual Report to the President and to Congress, Fiscal Year 1986 on Federal Activities Related to the Administration of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as Amended. (GPO 1987-181-158:60219) Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S. Department of Education. (1985). Annual Report to the President and to Congress, Fiscal Year 1985 on Federal Activities Related to the Administration of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as Amended. (GPO 1986-491-151:40225) Washington D.C.:U.S. Government Printing Office.
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Article Details
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Author:Brown, Dale
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Previous Article:RSA and supported employment.
Next Article:Problem-solving orientations and decision-making styles among rehabilitation professionals.

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