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West Virginia Rehabilitation Center

Workforce Solutions ~ O*NET Contributions

O*NET "Reality Searches" Help Transitioning Students Translate Career Dreams and "Can-Do" Outlook into Real Jobs

Workforce Challenge: West Virginia employers praise these workers for their reliability, helpfulness, can-do attitudes, and friendliness toward customers and colleagues. They are seen as "go-getters," "excellent multi-taskers," "quick studies," and "hard workers." Yet many of these same workers had come to the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services with little confidence and no awareness about what they had to offer the State's businesses and agencies. Like other people with disabilities, they wanted to work and live independently, but they needed information and assistance to do so.

Agency Solution: To meet customer demand for its services, the Division offers a full spectrum of supportive services via a comprehensive Rehabilitation Center, some 38 field offices, and a hospital.** Education and employment are at the core, because so many clients want to work. According to Donna Ashworth, the Center's Administrator, more than half its clients are students (ages 15-23) who are "transitioning" from school to work. They may "want to be a fashion designer," for example, but have no idea of how that translates into a real job in a highly competitive employment market. O*NET® OnLine provides an excellent tool for "reality searches," Ms. Ashworth says.

O*NET Contribution: Suppose a student wants to be an artist. With a keyword search, O*NET OnLine produces a list of art-related occupations. A student can check these out to learn about their required skills and training, their wages and employment outlook. Often "our young people have vague, uninformed career goals that are quickly discarded when they learn they will require years and years in school or pay very low wages," Ms. Ashworth notes. "O*NET opens up a wider range of practical possibilities and opportunities they did not know were out there." Career assessment staff can help students use O*NET OnLine to identify their work-related skills and find occupations that call for similar skills. It offers them a readily accessible, free, and easy-to-use tool for exploring career possibilities.

Adults with disabilities also find O*NET information useful, Ms. Ashworth says. One of her clients was a firefighter who had been seriously injured on the job and could no longer handle that work. Through an O*NET skills search, he discovered that insurance adjustors needed similar skills and that there was a demand for adjustors to investigate fire-related claims. An insurance firm in Charleston was glad to find someone with his experience and skills.

Key Results: Ms. Ashworth heard about O*NET at a conference about two years ago and decided to try it. Based on her experience, she would like to help more of the 125 vocational rehabilitation counselors in the field offices use it, too. Next year the Agency will move from using DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles) codes to using SOC/O*NET codes. Being able to use O*NET OnLine in related career assessment and employment research will be a plus when the new codes are adopted.

Donna Ashworth, Assistant Director and Center Administrator, West Virginia Rehabilitation Center
Telephone: 304-766-4686