KCCU Radio Interview with Melissa Beck and DRS’ James Gottman, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist .
MB: James thank you do much for speaking with us today. Tell me a little bit about what the Rehabilitation Services does for people in our community.
JG: We can provide on the job training services; help someone find a job; employer can provide on the job training to get a letter of agreement to work after three months. DRS will pay part of their salary during the time to allow the client to learn the job but to show their worth but the employer to try them out. At the end of it we would like an employment outcome, it’s not always going to happen but we like that to be the outcome but if not they have it on their resume to use and its more experience they can relate to on the next job position they apply for.
MB: That sounds really beneficial to the employer because they can try out a new employee without paying the full salary right away while they are deciding if it’s the right fit.
JG: It is and a lot of the agencies that are funded with grants that have limited resources it’s a great benefit to them because that percentage amount can be negotiated between the counselor and the letter of agreement they know when they’re going to do it; how much the percentage is and as long as it doesn’t go over $5,000 we don’t have to do a contract just the letter of agreement.
MB: That’s a wonderful opportunity for people with disabilities looking for employment and for employers looking for someone they can hire that they know are going to get the proper training and have the proper support.
JG: Now what we do is try to provide job ready qualified applicants to individuals so they’ve already been learning the job; already has history in the job or they have the requisite training that is needed. We don’t just send them anybody, we send them a person who has the ability, skills and knowledge to do the job.
MB: So an employer can give you a list of qualifications they need someone to meet and you can them match a candidate up with that?
JG: Yes they can. We have occupational network or some people use the dictionary of occupational titles and it shows the job description of all the vocational goals that you can think of. You can look them up, go through them and see what the salary is what the employment trends are in a ten year period and what the expected annual openings are going to be for the state and for national.
MB: Has the COVID-19 pandemic had a large effect on your organization?
JG: It has changed the way we do things. We have not been in the office. The offices have been closed. We have our techs go to the office on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays to check messages, gather emails and faxes that have been sent in and give those to the counselors; applications that come in they scan them and send them to us so we can then contact and do initial interviews over the phone. Everything we do basically is on the phone. I have not seen a client in about a month but I have kept up with applications I’ve kept up with clients and providing services all through this time without leaving my third bedroom in my apartment which is now my office.
MB: We all have a third bedroom office nowadays or a kitchen office or a couch office.
JG: Or a wherever you can find office.
MB: We’re all adapting right now.
JG: At this time DRS has not made a decision when to come back. We had a survey that we’re doing to find out how this has gone so far and when they go over the results of that survey they will make recommendations to all of the units and then tell us what we need to do. I don’t expect that’ll happen until June or so. So I guess we will stay home a little while longer.
MB: What would you say to employers or educational institutions looking to use your services? How can they contact you?
JG: They can contact us at the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services State Office at (800) 845-8476 to apply for services or oklahomarehab.org to get an online application or if you’re just wanting to contact our office in our area, you can contact VR02 in Altus at (580) 482-8605 or you can call the 800 number at the state office and talk to someone to give you a list of the agencies in different areas so you don’t have to look them up.