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Understanding the Influences of Race, Disability, and Poverty on Employment

Perspectives from Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Participants Living in the Central City of Milwaukee

In May 2019, the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) connected with the Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center on Targeted Communities (VRTAC-TC), also referred to as Project E3, through colleagues at the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC).

Wisconsin DVR expressed interest in gaining a better understanding of the employment service needs and perspective of program participants residing in the Central City of Milwaukee. This geographic area has many strengths but also faces unique challenges related to a high percentage of community members experiencing concentrated and multigenerational poverty, rooted in structural and historical racism.

Thirty residents of Milwaukee’s Central City who were engaged with DVR and either pursuing employment and career opportunities or recently having exited the program. Participants shared insight and perspective into their experiences with DVR, their goals and aspirations for the future, and the challenges that poverty or lack of resources presents when seeking and engaging in employment.

Primary Themes Shared by Participants

  1. The Importance of Effective Counselor Communication, Responsiveness, and Working Alliance
  2. Concerns About Staff Turnover, Delays, and Lack of Time and Flexibility
  3. The Influence of Race
  4. Challenges Presented by Poverty
  5. Participant Perspective on Improving DVR Services

This report shares how these themes to develop a set of near-term and longer-term recommendations to help inform policy and systems decisions with the potential to positively impact programmatic outcomes.

Download the Milwaukee Perspectives Report: Understanding the Influences of Race, Disability, and Poverty on Employment
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