A Guest Column by Secretary Ray Allen Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
June is Wisconsin Dairy Month, and it's a great opportunity to highlight the contributions of Wisconsin's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) on Wisconsin's agriculture industry and Wisconsin's workforce as a whole. In Federal Fiscal Year 2015, the Department of Workforce Development's (DWD) DVR helped 4,875 consumers, including approximately 180 Wisconsin farmers, achieve employment goals.
The core mission of DWD is developing Wisconsin's workforce, and that includes helping workers with disabilities move toward greater independence through the dignity of work.
Job seekers with disabilities represent a critical part of our state's workforce and, through their success in reaching their goals, contribute to Wisconsin's economic growth. This is why Governor Walker in 2014 launched A Better Bottom Line in support of overcoming barriers to employment for job seekers with disabilities. A Better Bottom Line is tailored after Delaware Governor Jack Markell's initiative with the National Governor's Association and promotes employment opportunities for people with disabilities through recognition, education and strategic investments. This includes helping farmers with disabilities continue their livelihood through the most essential and cost-effective supports and resources.
In Wisconsin, demand for DVR services is growing with more than 16,000 consumers on DVR's caseload at any given time, and thousands more expected to seek services as Wisconsin implements federal regulations under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. In an effort to remain excellent stewards of public funds, DVR has updated practices to ensure critical supports are available to all DVR consumers, including farmers, and that the long-term financial stability of the program is protected.
DVR has long supported Wisconsin's strong agricultural heritage and continues to offer an array of services to assist farmers with disabilities who are eligible DVR consumers. For example, DVR will determine the extent to which a purchase of assistive technology or other service would help farmers achieve their employment goals to continue farming. DVR also helps identify and refer farmers to other state or federal resources that focus on Wisconsin farmers.
Additionally, individuals including farmers sometimes approach DVR with the need to pursue a different career. DVR offers individualized services such as career exploration, job preparation, temporary work experiences and post-secondary education and training.
By aligning DVR's services to farmers with the core mission of the program, we are ensuring Wisconsin's DVR system remains stable and available to eligible workers with significant disabilities today and in the years to come.