Why Do It

by RD Michaels, MA, CCRC, ARP, CVE, RCC, Dipl.ABVE, CDE III
The primary purpose of vocational rehabilitation is to enable each individual to reach his/her highest level of achievement, personally and vocationally. One of the mandates of the Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor/Case Manager or Insurance Adjuster is the Return-to-Work of the client. How this is done, and the extent of the involvement and type of services required depends on the barriers to employment faced by the client. Successful return-to-work transition planning may be linked to a good vocational assessment. The question is, what type of assessment/evaluation provides the information needed to achieve these important outcomes. Formal psychometric approaches such as occupational interest inventories and vocational aptitude batteries are commonly used. The question remains, however: are these approaches appropriate for meeting the needs of special populations (i.e. injured or unemployed workers, rehabilitation clients, etc.) and can they provide sufficient data to achieve the requisite outcomes?

Why Vocational Assessment/Evaluation

Vocational Assessment/Evaluation is utilized primarily to determine whether or not an individual can return-to-work, and, if so, at what. A good Vocational Assessment/Evaluation measures the client's strengths, identifies areas of need, enhances self-image and determines the level and style of the individual's learning abilities. It accurately assesses a client's vocational potential for a wide variety of realistic job and training options within a short period of time when transferable skills alone cannot be utilized. Direct placement may follow. Oftentimes retraining or job modification/job accommodation may be required. The Vocational Assessment/Evaluation incorporates medical, psychological, social, vocational, educational, cultural, and economic data. It also needs to include an assessment of physical, intellectual, personal and behavior factors. Each client is different and may require different testing instruments.

Personal and Vocational Characteristics

The Vocational Assessment/Evaluation measures an individual's Personal and Vocational Characteristics. These factors are defined in the Canadian Classification and Dictionary of Occupations (CCDO) and The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). They include: Vocational Interests, Aptitudes (general learning ability, verbal, numerical, spatial, form, clerical perception, motor coordination, finger dexterity, manual dexterity, eye-hand- foot coordination, color discrimination), Education (reasoning, mathematical, language), Employment Training, Temperaments, Employment History (Transferable Skills), Vocational Skills, Physical Abilities and Functional Limitations, Language Skills, Cognitive Abilities. There are dozens of acceptable tests available to the Evaluator. Each test is like one piece of a jig-saw puzzle. No one test is a stand-alone. Each test or test battery is simply one tool among many. They must all be put together to complete the Evaluation (puzzle).

The Vocational Assessment/Evaluation Report

In processing the information from the Evaluation, it should be kept in mind that physical capacities and aptitudes/abilities tell what a client can do; interests and attitudes towards work tell what the client wants to do. Assessment of an individual's interests, abilities, and preferences is crucial to placement in a job or training program to allow for the best opportunity for success. The Vocational Assessment/Evaluation Report should contain all the Personal and Vocational Characteristics of the individual. In addition, the report should include psychosocial and background information regarding the client, and provide test results in general terms. The report should also contain recommendations to assist the counsellor/case manager/adjuster in completing the rehabilitation plan or the treatment plan. This includes Realistic Occupational Options, including Job Suitability.

Early Intervention

A client is appropriate for Vocational Assessment/Evaluation as early as possible in the rehabilitation process, when he/she is medically stable [Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)], and there is a question as to the likelihood of a return to previous job/occupation. Early intervention assists in earlier return-to-work and/or early indication of necessary services to facilitate the return-to-work.

The Evaluator

In selecting an Evaluator to conduct the Vocational Evaluation/ Assessment, the referral source should look for his/her Education, Training, Experience, Certification and recent/current maintenance. Equally important is whether the Evaluator incorporates depth of the testing process with new-age evaluation tools, and the Evaluator's access to Labor Market data. Sometimes the local Evaluator may not possess these critical aspects of the Vocational Assessment/Evaluation process. Referral sources need to share the responsibililty for implementing Vocational Assessment/Evaluation in order to provide clients with meaningful and appropriate return-to-work options. These options can increase the chances that a client/worker will complete the rehabilitation plan or treatment plan and subsequently return to the world-of-work with the skills and motivation needed to remain on-the-job. Early intervention, with the Vocational Assessment/Evaluation as a part of a team process, assists in determining appropriate supports needed to allow clients the best opportunity for success, and successful case-file closure.

Qualifications of RD Michaels
Vocational Implications File Review™
Solving Career Jigsaw Puzzles
Vocational Implications of a Disability
Vocational Expert Services
Information Request Form
Who Is Appropriate For Vocational Testing