Oct. 12, 2010
Wadsworth nets grant to expand UI’s vocational rehab master’s program
The U.S. is experiencing a critical shortage of vocational rehabilitation counselors, according to John Wadsworth, a University of Iowa associate professor in the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program in the UI College of Education.
At the same time, the number of people with significant disabilities who hope to participate in the workforce is increasing.
To help address this shortage, Wadsworth recently received a five-year, $730,000 U.S. Department of Education grant titled “Rehabilitation Counseling Long Term Training Grant: Master's Level Program.”
“The number of persons with disabilities, especially combat-related disability, is growing,” said Wadsworth, the grant principal investigator.
Wadsworth added that there is a concurrent, well-documented and significant shortage of qualified counselors to meet the mental health and employment needs of persons with disabilities, both civilian and military.
“Many state vocational rehabilitation and veteran assistance programs are unable to hire qualified persons and, as a result, people who qualify for services cannot obtain assistance,” Wadsworth said.
In Iowa, there is an expected growth in job openings for rehabilitation counselors of 24 percent in the next six years. Nationally, job growth is projected to be 19 percent, according to Wadsworth.
The UI Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program obtained these federal funds to support the graduate education of students who seek professional public-service careers as counselors and employment specialists for persons with mental health and physical disabilities. The funding provides tuition and stipend for graduate students who commit to post-graduate employment in a qualifying public agency serving the employment needs of those with severe disabilities.
Currently, 26 UI students are pursuing master’s degrees, but Wadsworth said they hope to graduate 60 qualified rehabilitation counselors in the next five years, who are prepared for careers in the state and federal vocational rehabilitation system.
This grant will help strengthen an already strong program, Wadsworth said.
“The program enjoys strong national recognition and is ranked fourth among peer institutions by US News & World Report,” Wadsworth said.
The Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) and the Council on Accreditation on Counseling and Related Professions (CACREP) in Community Counseling also accredit the master’s degree.
He added that graduates of the program enjoy diverse employment opportunities as licensed mental health counselors, employment specialists and case managers in settings that include vocational agencies, mental health centers, community colleges, veteran’s services, corrections, industry and academia.
Grant community partners include the Iowa Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Access to Independence and the Iowa Department of the Blind.
In addition to helping fund recruitment and retention of top-notch graduate students to the program, the grant will also help fund the UI’s Annual Summer School for Helping Professionals -– which provides training to an estimated 150 to 200 currently employed counselors each year.
Ultimately, the grant creates a win-win -- not just for the graduate students and those who are disabled but also for the Iowa economy, Wadsworth said.
“The funding will also increase the number of graduates who are not encumbered by debt and have a commitment to public service,” Wadsworth said. “Graduates of the program are program directors, counselors and employment specialists with a variety of agencies in Eastern Iowa. These professionals contribute to the quality of life for persons with disabilities by providing employment, counseling and case management services.”
For more information, contact Wadsworth at 319-335-5246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500