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JVS: a career development model for community rehabilitation programs.

Traditional vocational rehabilitation dates back approximately 150 years with resulting service prototypes used today. Four of the original models of programs serving people with disabilities developed in those early years are described below:

* Goodwill Industries International was among the first initiatives and derived from services targeted to indigent people. Today, a vast international network of stores selling reprocessed goods and work centers provide employment and training services to large numbers of people with disabilities.

* The Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) evolved from child day care services developed by parents of mentally retarded children for those who were not eligible for public school programs. Today, myriad employment, training, and residential services are provided to people of all ages.

* The National Easter Seals Society model was based on services for children with disabling conditions arising from accidents and used a medical rehabilitation approach. Today, Easter Seals provides a variety of medical rehabilitation services for people of all ages and disabilities.

* The Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) model originally served refugees from Eastern Europe. Today, career development services are provided to people who are occupationally disadvantaged. JVS agencies specialize in employment and training programs serving people with disabilities, those who are economically disadvantaged, refugees, and dislocated family wage earners.

The Jewish Vocational Service of metropolitan Chicago originated in 1884 as the first JVS of what is now an international affiliated group of 30 located throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel. Although each is unique in responding to community needs and resources, the common mission is employment and the bond among them all is career development. For purposes of demonstrating career development as a service model for community rehabilitation programs (CRP's), Chicago JVS will be featured throughout this article, using examples of programs and services that are regularly found in many JVS agencies.


The annals of JVS point out that the initial need addressed was finding work for refugees fleeing Eastern Europe due to oppression and famine. Family members, friends, and neighbors banded together as volunteers in Chicago to welcome New Americans by helping them find jobs. Early agency records cite Maimonides (rabbinic authority, codifier, philosopher, and royal physician, 1135-1204):

"Anticipate charity by preventing poverty; assist the reduced fellowman, either by a considerable gift, or a sum of money, or by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest livelihood, and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity's golden ladder."(1)

A contemporary translation of this philosophy is, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime."

The volunteers' efforts continued through both World Wars. In addition to being homeless, unemployed, or victims of political strife, many new refugees arrived with physical and emotional disabilities. As the problems faced by the Chicago volunteers in finding work for veterans and refugees with disabilities increased, professionals replaced volunteers. The work of JVS expanded from job placement to inclusion of a counseling component, designed to help these war ravaged people to discover their capabilities and opportunities to achieve their preferred careers. Others who were unemployed and underemployed also benefitted from career counseling. Senior adults, recent college graduates, and family wage earners soon learned the advantages of career planning and JVS earned its reputation for individually tailored counseling and placement services.

For those who were unsuccessful in the job market, special training programs were created (i.e., watch repair) to help them become more marketable or realize ambitions of becoming entrepreneurs. Many refugees who immigrated in the post World War II years were not job ready and required rehabilitation to readjust to the world of work.

William Gelman, Ph.D., Executive Director of Chicago JVS at that time, gained prominence in the field of vocational rehabilitation technology and research. He established a laboratory in 1951 to create a simulated work environment and used the experience as a therapeutic tool to help people adapt to society through work. This vocational rehabilitation model, Adjusting People to Work,(2) was published and distributed internationally for others to emulate. Skills training and building confidence, stamina, and acceptable work habits were the driving forces for moving people from a protected environment to competitive employment. In 1953, this model was acknowledged by a Presidential Citation and government grants began to fund the expansion of this program. In addition to refugees, community residents who were mentally, emotionally, or physically disabled were also served.

JVS organized two divisions as a community vocational resource. The Counseling and Placement Division provides a variety of employment services to job applicants who are work ready and to students. The Rehabilitation Ser vices Division is chosen by job applicants who wish to improve their employability through training. Applicants have the common need for career development and employment services. Both divisions serve people with disabilities as well as other occupationally disadvantaged populations, including welfare recipients, refugees, dislocated workers, students, and older citizens. The combination of need and disability cuts across all these groups.

Counseling and Placement Division

Career counseling offers a variety of specific services to students selecting colleges or trade schools, to family wage earners who are dislocated due to structural unemployment, and to older adults seeking temporary or part-time work as a post retirement activity. For those who have clear vocational goals, job placement services are offered directly through approximately 7,000 employers who regularly place their want ads with the JVS Job Order Room. A computerized match system is used to draw qualified job applicants and fax resumes.

JVS also compiles skills banks of people's occupational capabilities and distributes these lists regularly to approximately 15,000 potential employers. Applicants who are computer literate are provided computers to construct resumes and write cover letters. If help is needed, professionals assist. A resource library is available for reference materials or to access the Internet for school, career, or job opportunities information. Professionals role play job interviews and may videotape or refer people to volunteer experts in their field of choice to enhance self-awareness, improve interviewing techniques, and network for job-seeking purposes.

Special services have been created to address unique needs among job applicants.

* A job counselor works with a consortium of human service agencies to help people who are poor and often homeless. While preparing for job interviews, these individuals can also satisfy their immediate basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing.

* High level professionals and managers, some formerly earning six figures, are helped through JVS' established network of more than 50 congregations, where people who are unemployed are linked to a vast number of potential employers. Lists of their skills are widely distributed bi-monthly and volunteer mentors are assigned to help them network.

* Roundtables are conducted for professionals, managers, and technicians. They serve as support groups and provide occupational information as well as job leads. Employed volunteers who previously used roundtable services participate.

* A school operated for refugees teaches English as a second language. The goal is to prepare for the job interview and learn technical and workplace language endemic to their occupations. Workplace education services are delivered under contract with business and industry to help people with limited English skills keep their jobs.

* College counseling helps students and families select an appropriate and affordable school and guides them through the entire application process.

* Scholarship services identify aspiring college students who need financial assistance and, for those who qualify, recommendations are made to a group that distributes funds to worthy students.

* Job coaching services, available 24 hours a day, assist people with severe disabilities to get to work, learn the job, and maintain employment.

Corporate Services developed as a separate department in the Counseling and Placement Division in recognition of the fact that employers have specific service needs different from, but complementing, the mission of TVS. This department arose out of the growing realization that employers must be served as an equal and primary customer to ensure that jobs are available for the agency's applicants. This realization, coupled with flat funding from the government and contributors, gave rise to agency recognition of the need to expand its funding base to provide economic stability and potential for growth. TVS then engaged in a strategic plan that prioritized entrepreneurial services to business and industry. Corporate services that have been provided include:

* Case Management. In collaboration with medical specialists and vocational expert witnesses, case management services provide vocational and medical evaluation to insurance companies and attorneys to assist injured workers to return to work. This service has employment as its objective while reducing insurance liability costs.

* Disability Consultation helps businesses comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and employ and retain people with disabilities. Corporate fees provide matching funds to two federal Projects With Industry programs which provide a pool of job ready workers, consultation on job accommodation, and job coaching services to businesses while ensuring employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

* Interpreting Services provides sign language specialists to businesses that employ people who are deaf and hearing impaired, which encourages their employment and job retention.

* Outplacement Services minimizes the trauma of termination and length of unemployment and reduces liability for the employer.

* Work Place Education evaluates business-specific language needs and provides a menu of services that promotes necessary communication for work production, safety, and customer satisfaction.

Rehabilitation and Skills Training Division

The Work Services Department comprises a range of experiences. Those who have never worked or have had a series of disappointing short-term work experiences are taught appropriate work habits and occupational skills either in a controlled work environment, at a community-based job site, or in a classroom setting. Others choose Work Services during recessionary periods so they may provide job references and specific skills to employers.

Although Work Services is especially appealing to people with disabilities, this department also attracts older people who are looking for social and support groups and a few dollars to supplement social security income; refugees who require acculturation and English language training to develop an American work ethic; adolescents who are aging-out of school and frightened of facing the adult labor market; and ex-offenders who need income, references, and a job to ensure release from incarceration. All of these people share the common need to work and are confronted with barriers to competitive employment. These barriers are environmentally imposed and the goal of Work Services is to provide pathways through the barriers to employment.

Within the Rehabilitation and Skills Training Division, several special services are offered. These include:

* A Senior Employment Program that serves older adults who are no longer able to work competitively due to the complications of aging and severe disabilities. A primary objective is to enable those who wish to do so to continue to identify as workers. Participants, because of their frailties, determine their own work hours. These individuals are primarily poor. Most are isolated and the work setting becomes a substitute family. They also benefit from special sessions that enable them to celebrate holidays, discuss current events, and have a social outlet.

* The Vocational Transitions Program helps students and recent graduates experience a work setting to prepare them for competitive employment. For some, it has become part of the school-day or summer vacation.

*Residential Apartments are provided as support services to those who have been deinstitutionalized and need assistance with independent living skills and adjusting to the community.

* Scholarships are designated for people who are not eligible for public training funds due to not meeting the test of order of selection (severe disability) or needing more training time than public sponsors permit.

The Skills Training Department provides classroom instruction and practical on-the-job experiences in a variety of service industries. It developed in recognition that those with specific occupational skills are the first to be hired and among the last to be laid off. JVS has researched the growing service industries with the most potential for long-term employment and provides classroom and practical training in business services, clerical, janitorial, and homemaker/healthcare aides. All of the occupationally disadvantaged populations mentioned, as well as welfare recipients, are the primary users of Skills Training.

* Business Services Training is conducted at competitive job sites. Training programs include: mailroom, supply room, duplication services, warehouse, furniture moving, medical records recovery, and janitorial services. A recently developed training module sponsored by Walgreens includes retail cashier, manager, and pharmacy technician training.

* Clerical Training operates in classroom settings and offers a practicum experience in a variety of jobsites. The training includes general office, word processing, computer entry, and bookkeeping operations.

* Homemaker/Health Care Aide Training prepares individuals for child care, elder care, and trauma recovery and assisting those with chronic disabling conditions.

* Janitorial Services range from housekeeping to building maintenance.

* Placement Assistance and Training offers job seeking skills and job placement services. Developing resumes, job interviewing practice, job search activities, transportation, and proper apparel comprise the training curriculum.

* Community-Based Services provides onsite employment and training for 125 people with severe disabilities in 14 locations throughout metropolitan Chicago. The work covered includes Business Services Training referenced above. This department uses its work bases for transitional and supported employment as well as competitive employment.

In addition to the myriad of services provided through both Career Counseling and Rehabilitation Services, JVS is strengthened by the services of hundreds of volunteers, many of whom work with refugee families, helping them master English and become employable. Others solicit jobs, provide remedial education, and teach specific occupational skills. Over a 5-year period, program accountability indicates that these volunteers provided 173,500 hours of service, representing $1,634,000 of in-kind salaries.(3)


A former JVS Board President, who helped formulate JVS rehabilitation programs, participated in a 1977 Board Retreat 20 years after his active service on the Board of Directors. Near the end of the weekend discussions, he observed, "The people and places have changed, but the problems are the same: adequacy of services to the community, how to be more proactive, sufficiency of funds, and the need to do research." Now, 20 years later, this same principle continues to be quoted. It provides a perspective for those who are reacting to the rampant nature of change affecting community rehabilitation programs and looking for an anchor to stabilize programs and services. History offers a perspective in strategic planning; you have to know where you have been to know where you are going. Basic societal needs are relatively constant, and technological advances offer opportunities that better meet those needs.

JVS serves people from all walks of life, but it is neither an empire builder nor an organization that does not recognize boundaries. By policy, programs, and services to people are framed in two complementary perspectives. Population priorities target services to two categories of people:

* students, major wage earners, and second career retirees, and

* people with disabilities, individuals who are economically disadvantaged, and refugees.

People can be counted in a variety of ways and in how they are served at JVS. One's primary identification could be student or primary wage earner, and disability issues may or may not be prominent in service delivery. A refugee can be disabled but the primary service may be learning English.

A review of the most recent job placement statistics indicates that JVS assists more than 1,000 people with disabilities to become employed each year. The derivation of the programs in which these people are served and the placement departments that serve them are as follows:

* Approximately one-third are people with severe disabilities, half of them served in the Rehabilitation and Skills Training Division and half served in the Counseling and Placement Division.

* Another one-third are refugees, some with severe but most with moderate disabilities, served in a dedicated Refugee Services Department within the Counseling and Placement Division.

* The remaining one-third are people with moderate to mild disabilities served in the core counseling and placement programs.

It is noteworthy that the majority of people with disabilities and those with severe disabilities were served in the Counseling and Placement Division, which was not established to serve this population and does not provide traditional rehabilitation programs. This is related to the emerging JVS philosophy and practice, the key criteria of which are:

* One Point of Entry. Applicants can contact any one of eight JVS sites located throughout metropolitan Chicago and ideally identify the appropriate and most accessible service from the onset.

* Informed Choice. The contact person that first meets with the applicant provides information on JVS and other community programs and services appropriate to the individual's chosen career plan.

* Empowerment. It is the professional's job to help individuals select those services that meet their needs by providing sufficient information that will facilitate employment.

* Collaboration. JVS participates in numerous professional consortiums, consumer advisory committees, and business advisory councils to promote optimum services to meet the holistic needs of individuals served.

* Integration. Core services through its division structure are integrated. Individuals served range from young to old; poor to wealthy; disabled and nondisabled. Special services have higher proportions of specific individual qualifications, depending on the requirements of public and private funding contracts but, realistically, people with disabilities are advantaged since they may qualify for all special services.

* Employment First. The agency's services are reversing themselves in philosophy and practice. People with disabilities choosing rehabilitation services used to enter the work center's Vocational Assessment Program and sequentially progress through work training, skills training, and placement training services. Today, applicants can also be evaluated at community-based worksites. Previously, the intake process goal was to identify all of the training services that were required for initial services. Today, the intake interview is emerging as an employment interview and the primary goal is to identify job readiness and training preferences. Job ready workers can immediately access job placement services or they may choose occupational skills training.

* Entrepreneurial. Agency services are limited by resources available. By recognizing the employer as a funding base, a significant expansion of services that provide employment, training, and job retention is paid for by employers but directly benefit job applicants. "INDUSTRY BUYS SERVICES, NOT PEOPLE."(4) Marketing promotes peoples' capabilities and services that will benefit business. Services listed under the JVS Corporate Services Department are examples of employer-based programs. Also included are Outsourced Contracts which provide comprehensive worker pools that are fully responsible for select department work for NISH (formerly the National Industries For the Severely Handicapped) federal contracts, State Use contracts, and local businesses. All three types of contracts provide the same business opportunities, in janitorial, mail room, warehousing, and stock rooms. These contracts relieve businesses of recruiting, hiring, training, supervising, and payrolling for a fixed price and allow companies to concentrate their management and personnel resources on their product or service expertise. For JVS, operating these departments provides employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities as stipulated in NISH and State Use policy. Subcontracted Production work is brought to the work centers for assembly and packaging. This provides employment and training while serving business and industry by offering occupancy, labor, and product management at a fixed price.

Workplace Diversity: The Year 2000 and Beyond

Community rehabilitation programs that typically specialized in serving one disability group are now increasingly serving diverse disability populations and have learned a great deal about differences in the needs of people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and those with physical disabilities. CRP's are beginning to serve even more diverse populations. Probably the highest concentration are those who are economically disadvantaged, responding to the high government priority of Welfare Reform.

The same principles apply to serving diverse disability populations as apply to serving people who have other occupational disadvantages. Expanding service modalities increases integration, service choices, and resources. Critics are concerned about maintaining organizations' missions and lessening the commitment to the disability movement. It is our experience that people with disabilities find their way with or without an organization's help into the mainstream of life. JVS therefore promotes services to diverse populations as an opportunity to maximize employment and training resources for the community.

Career Development is a process that, for some, is dynamic throughout their worklife. Those who have experienced work training services in the Rehabilitation and Skills Training Division and become employed but who later may be interested in career advancement or are downsized usually are served in the Counseling and Placement Division as job ready individuals. As applied to community rehabilitation programs, it is the intent to create opportunities to jumpstart applicants' job readiness through work training experiences, maintain employment through support services during and following job placement, and remain a resource if there is a need to change jobs.

Ideally, the CRP assists individuals in choosing a career path that optimizes their capabilities. That choice will be influenced by their life experiences, parental or peer pressures, available resources, and how they adapt to change. There is a spectrum of possible services and employment and training sites available that people can now choose to suit a broad range of needs and expectations. Employment can be realized at a competitive business site with no rehabilitation support, in community-based sites with job coaching, or in a CRP worksite. Training also occurs at competitive worksites, community-based sites, the CRP worksite, or in a classroom setting. These options are chosen, as appropriate, by job seekers.

For those who advocate elimination of CRP worksites it would seem ludicrous as long as there is close to 70 percent unemployment among people with disabilities. At JVS, in the last few years, people served in its three work centers are all severely disabled, 50 percent with multiple disabilities, and most are economically disadvantaged. A large number of these people reside in Chicago's Empowerment Zone, bringing with them the heritage of multigenerational unemployment, high incidence of substance abuse, and homelessness.

At a professional rehabilitation conference of the American Rehabilitation Association in the early 1990's, Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, U.S. Department of Education, stated, "The future of vocational rehabilitation is not in workshops. But, given the high unemployment among people with disabilities, we cannot afford to give up even one job opportunity." High unemployment remains today, despite the Americans With Disabilities Act. As we enter the 21st Century, CRP's will confirm that programs and services will be customer driven and funding will shift from dependence on government to serving business and industry.

Four thousand five hundred community rehabilitation programs nationwide are all contributing to the employment and training advantage of people with disabilities. The JVS Career Development model represents a wide spectrum of such services and continues to research better service modalities as technology and resources adapt to the needs of job applicants and employers.


[1.] Bartlett, J. (1968). Familiar Quotations, 155(b).

[2.] Gellman, W. (1955). Jewish Vocational Service Monograph #1.

[3.] Goldstein, A. (1995). The Role of Hundreds of Volunteers In Unique Job Placement Program, Governance & Management of the Non-Profit Organization, McDonald Management Training Group.

[4.] Price, D.N. (1988). Jewish Vocational Service Monograph, Supported employment: Community-based rehabilitation programs.

Mr. Goldstein has been Executive Vice President/Executive Director of the Jewish Vocational Service, Chicago, Illinois, since 1978.
COPYRIGHT 1998 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
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Title Annotation:Jewish Vocational Service
Author:Goldstein, Alan
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Mar 22, 1998
Previous Article:Community rehabilitation organizations: transition to what?
Next Article:Supported employment: a decade of rapid growth and impact.

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