Business Connections at VCU is a supported employment service provider for individuals in the Metro Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Warsaw areas, assisting individuals with disabilities with finding employment and providing ongoing support to clients who obtain employment.
Established in 1983, the Virginia Commonwealth University RRTC provides resources for professionals, individuals with disabilities, and their representatives. Our team of nationally and internationally renowned researchers is committed to developing and advancing evidence-based practices to increase the hiring and retention for individuals with disabilities.
Business Connection at VCU is committed to providing person centered and customer directed supported employment services to assist individuals with all types of disabilities in seeking and obtaining community based competitive employment with a focus on job retention.
To provide a valuable demonstration of how community based competitive employment can become a reality for all individuals who desire to work.
Customer Directed Informed Choice
Emphasis on consumer-directed services through self-determination and informed consumer choice are the cornerstone of supported employment. The first step in framing a supported employment plan is asking the question: "What are a person's dreams, interests, and passions related to living and working in the community?" The next step is to set up a individualized service plan where the consumer exercises control over key steps in turning those dreams into employment.
Some of the key steps in the process include: choice of supported employment provider, setting employment goals, satisfaction with the job outcome as a prerequisite for payment to the provider, and the opportunity to turn a job into a career. The extent that the job seeker with a disability controls these choices is the true measures of whether the employment supports are consumer-directed.
Person Centered Employment Planning
Person-centered planning for employment is a process-oriented approach to empowering individuals with disabilities in their job search. The process focuses on the individual and their needs by putting them in charge of defining the direction for their future. This ultimately leads to greater inclusion as valued members of both the employment community and society.
This process involves working with the individual, as well as the individual's support team, to develop methods and resources that enable the person to obtain and maintain a job of their choice and reach their professional goals. "A person-centered plan can help those involved with the focus person see the total person, recognize his or her desires and interests, and discover completely new ways of thinking about the future of the person." Beth Mount & Kay Zwernik, 1988.
Community Based Competitive Employment
Community based competitive employment for an individual with disabilities means working in an integrated employment setting, having the same opportunities as other employees in the company, and earning commensurate wage and at least a minimum wage. This is accomplished by providing Job Coach Services authorized through the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to individuals referred to the VCU Health System under the vendorship agreement.
Long-term Workplace Supports
Long-term workplace supports are vocational support services provided on and/or off of the jobsite that are necessary and sufficient for consumers to maintain employment on a long-term basis in a competitive employment setting. This service is not time-limited and will continue as long as the person is employed in their job and the service is desired. This allows job coaches to intervene if any crisis that will impact employment arises.
Scope of Service
The primary activities associated with our program include: Recruitment, Job Training, and Retention services. VCU Business Connections strives to bridge the gap between employers looking for qualified and reliable employees and a pool of prescreened job applicants with disabilities that have the proper supports in place for long-term success! We focus heavily on understanding and meeting the specific needs of both jobseekers and employers to make the best job matches possible.
Our Supported Employment Services are designed to meet the needs of individuals with severe disabilities. This includes people for whom competitive employment has not traditionally occurred, individuals whose competitive employment has been interrupted or intermittent as a result of a severe disability, and those who, because of their disability, need ongoing support to maintain competitive employment.
First, the program strives to support persons with disabilities with identifying their abilities, possible support needs; conducting a job search to locate real work for real pay, providing and facilitating workplace supports as needed, and ongoing long term follow along and job retention services both at or away from the work place. The program also offers Time Limited Job Coach Training Services that are available for people with disabilities who require assistance with locating employment, transitioning into the workforce, and/or time limited on-the-job skills training and support services. The aforementioned ongoing or long-term support services are not provided in this service option. Vocational Assessments are available within the context of implementing either Supported Employment or Time Limited Services or for general career exploration. Business Connections does not prescribe, dispense or administer medications.
Second, the program offers a valuable service to the business community. These services include: assisting employers with identifying hiring needs or new work structures, referring candidates for interviews, providing initial and ongoing on the jobsite support services to ensure the employer's business requirements are being met by the new hire, and providing education and technical assistance on disability and employment related issues.
Our staff also works in coordination with DARS as well as other support services and persons to insure non-employment related needs are in place. This would include benefits planning, housing, medical/substance abuse support, as well as crisis intervention. Individuals are most likely to be successful in employment when all other areas of their life are also supported by the appropriate service provider.
- Persons must have a severe disability. Time Limited/Job Coach Training Services are available for people who need or desire less intensive services. Situational vocational assessments are available to participants in both services for those who desire general career exploration.
- Persons served should be willing to work within the City of Richmond and the surrounding counties (i.e., Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover), Fredericksburg, or Warsaw. Persons who reside outside this radius are accepted for services if funding is made available. Whenever the person is referred from outside of the general catchments area, the program strongly encourages the referring counselor to also become involved in job placement activities in order to reduce service cost.
- Individuals served must be eligible for Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) funding and services. If you are not currently working with DARS we will assist in developing a collaborative relationship.
- Usually individuals are not employed at the time of referral; however, there are exceptions. Examples of when someone who is already employed may be referred for services include: the person is experiencing difficulties at work and intervention may alleviate the problems and increase longevity on the job, the person is underemployed and desires new employment, or the person will be laid off from work.
- Services will not be denied to anyone based on race, gender, age religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or disability. Business Connections at VCU is an equal opportunity affirmative action institution.
- Business Connections reserves the right to decline services if staff, in coordination with DARS, identifies that an individual or family member is non-compliant and/or displays behaviors that might be violent, dangerous, threatening, or harassing.
- Waitlists are not maintained at VCU Business Connections, but are established at the local referral source based on ability to fund services. Once funding is available we accept all referrals.
We work in collaboration with the individual, support team, and DARS to determine transition to additional services.
Individuals exit the program when:
- DARS chooses to discontinue services
- the individual chooses not to continue services