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PWI - a model for job placement.

Since its inception in 1968, the Projects With Industry (PWI) program, long recognized as one of the most successful means of providing placement services to people with disabilities, has placed more than 162,000 people with disabilities into competitive employment.

Where did this program come from and why has it been successful? PWI started with the idea that since it is business and industry that provide jobs, shouldn't they have a major role in job training and placement programs for people with disabilities? In 1968, Congress added authority to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act to allow the state vocational rehabilitation agencies to contract directly with business to provide job training and placement services.

The goals of PWI legislation are "to create and expand job and career opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the competitive labor market by engaging the talent and leadership of private industry as partners in the rehabilitation process, to identify competitive job and career opportunities and the skills needed to perform such jobs, to create practical job and career readiness and training programs, and to provide placements and career advancement." (Section 621(a)(1) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended).

The PWI program enjoyed its greatest development under the guidance of Tom Fleming, who directed the program for RSA in PWI's earliest years. As developed by Mr. Fleming, PWI has four key ingredients:

* Business Involvement

* Focus on Placement

* Cost Effectiveness

* Accountability

There are many models for PWI. A number of projects were developed and have evolved to meet special needs. In many cases, the PWI project serves a local geographic area and works with people with a wide variety of disabling conditions. Other projects work with people with specific disabling conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, visual disabilities, hearing impairments, and mental illness; and some projects have concentrated their efforts on a particular company or industry. The three organizations with PWI's featured in other articles in this issue of American Rehabilitation represent the program's diversity.

Business involvement has always been the hallmark of PWI. In some cases, businesses such as IBM actually run the program. In other cases, foundations and associations formed by business leaders administer the project. Examples are the Marriott Foundation for Persons with Disabilities, The National Restaurant Association, and the Electronic Industries Foundation. All PWI's have Business Advisory Councils (BAC's). These BAC's are made up of representatives of private industry, business concerns, and organized labor. Rather than being a committee of figureheads who just lend their name to a committee that has little purpose, BAC's help identify job availability, the necessary job skills, and actual training needs that will meet the needs of business. (See article on Business Advisory Councils on page 26 of this issue--Editor)

Organized labor has also had a significant role in the development of PWI's. AFL/CIO and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers sponsor more than a dozen PWI's, mostly through local union lodges.

PWI focuses on placement and is thus a complementary program to the state/federal rehabilitation program under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Most of the people served by PWI's are clients, or have been clients, of the state VR program (all must be eligible for VR services). Some PWI's also work with people who have not traditionally been served, such as youth in transition from special education and elderly people with disabilities. A 1991 doctoral dissertation by Robert J. Lenaway, Executive Director, National Industrial Center for Employment of Persons with Disabilities, Portage, Michigan, concluded that PWI and the state VR program were complementary rather than competitive. His research showed that people with disabilities served by both PWI and VR had a much greater chance of successful placement than those served only by VR. It was found that VR was generally more strategically effective in disability-specific marketing and supply while PWI was more effective with customer service, screening, and training.

During FY 1991, the most recent fiscal year for which we have statistics, Projects With Industry placed more than 13,500 people with disabilities into competitive jobs at an average cost to the Federal Government of less than $1,400 per placement. Seventy-two percent of those placed were people with severe disabilities. We know that these 13,500 people improved their income an average of $186 per week. We also know from past statistics that approximately 22 percent of the people placed had been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplementary Security Income (SSI).

Based on the above information, PWI projects return almost $3.00 in the first year after placement for each $1.00 spent on PWI. These are real savings based on contributions to Social Security and income taxes and savings resulting from people not having to rely on welfare programs. These savings are based on reports of actual placements and data reported for each individual. The 3 to 1 return is based on the first year of employment. Most of the people placed will hopefully be starting on many years of work and the savings can be multiplied many times over.

Projects With Industry is the only program under the Rehabilitation Act for which standards and indicators of success have been established and used. The standards were mandated by Congress and approved by the National Council on Disability. Since 1988 these standards and indicators have been used to monitor the accomplishments of each program, and they will be used in the future to determine whether a program will continue to be funded.

Federal regulations require the following evaluation standards:

1) The primary objective of the project shall be to assist individuals with disabilities to obtain competitive employment. The activities carried out by the project shall support the accomplishment of this objective.

2) The project shah serve individuals with disabilities that impair their capacity to obtain competitive employment. In selecting persons to receive services, priority shall be given to individuals with severe disabilities.

3) The project shall ensure the provision of services that will assist in the placement of persons with disabilities.

4) Funds shall be used to achieve the project's primary objective at minimum cost to the Federal Government.

5) The project's advisory council shah provide policy guidance and assistance in the conduct of the project.

6) Working relationships, including partnerships, shall be established with agencies and organizations in order to expand the project's capacity to meet its objectives.

7) The project shall obtain positive results in assisting individuals with disabilities to obtain competitive employment.

Compliance with these six standards are measured by compliance indicators. (34 C.F.R. Pt. 379, Appendix)

Federally mandated indicators include:

* percent of persons served and percent of persons placed whose disabilities are severe;

* percent of persons served and percent of persons placed who had been unemployed for at least 6 months at the time of project entry;

* cost per placement;

* placement rate (projected and actual); and

* change in earnings.

Projects are given points depending on their level of success. There are minimum requirements for receiving points for each indicator and extra points are given when the project has been exceptionally successful.

With the advent of ADA and the new authority in the Rehabilitation Act, the PWI community is looking forward to increased levels of success in placing people with severe disabilities into competitive employment.


Lenaway, R.J. (1991). A comparative study of employment outcomes of the projects with industry and the state/federal vocational rehabilitation programs. Portage, MI: RPA Systems.


1. I-NABIR is the Inter-National Association of Business, Industry, and Rehabilitation. It is a private, nonprofit organization [Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code]. I-NABIR was formed in 1985 by a group of organizations which had PWI projects. These organizations felt it was important to have a forum to discuss issues of mutual concern and to promote the employment of people with disabilities through cooperative arrangements among business, rehabilitation, and organized labor.

I-NABIR is made up of 100 organization members. They include major international corporations, local rehabilitation service organizations, state and regional programs, national and local labor organizations, state rehabilitation agencies, national trade associations, school transition programs, disability specific organizations, mental health centers, and organizations created just to provide PWI services. It is a group of organizations that run the gamut of organizations providing employment related services to persons with disabilities, but the business and labor communities are active members as well.

Mr. Harles, an attorney with a disability who has more than 18 years experience in disability and rehabilitation issues, is Executive Director of I-NABIR.(1) Prior to his association with I-NABIR, Mr. Harles was Associate Executive Director of the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, General Counsel of Goodwill Industries of America, and an attorney-advisor at the National Labor Relations Board.
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Title Annotation:Programs with Industry
Author:Harles, Charles Wm.
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Dec 22, 1992
Previous Article:Education-industry collaboration: guidelines for complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Next Article:Business advisory councils in the rehabilitation process.

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