North Dakota leads the nation in employment of people with disabilities at 58%. This national distinction is due in part to North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) vocational rehabilitation professionals who helped 737 North Dakotans with disabilities obtain competitive, integrated employment in their community last federal fiscal year.
To recognize their efforts, the HHS Vocational Rehabilitation Section presented 16 performance and recognition awards during its annual training conference last month in Bismarck.
Aimee Easton from the Williston office was presented with the Director’s Award for Excellence. Easton was nominated by her peers for her program knowledge, involvement in numerous vocational rehabilitation projects and top-notch customer service to clients and businesses.
Jacque Harder, Megan Stone, and Rebecca Martin, from the Fargo office received the Award for Counselor Achievement, which recognizes the top 10% of counselors who helped the most individuals become employed.
Jamestown region team member Wes Heinley, Grand Forks region team member Chelsy Sondrol and Fargo region team member Jennifer Reinke received the Award for Counselor Achievement - Honorable Mention for having the second highest number of clients to achieve employment.
Jordana Pearson and her colleagues in the Williston office were presented with the Exemplary Service Award for providing outstanding case service to clients through creative thinking, direct work with multiple agencies and consistent client follow-up.
The Vocational Rehabilitation Community Participation Award was presented to the team from the Bismarck office for their involvement in community activities.
The Overall Team Achievement Award was presented to team members from the Grand Forks office for exceeding performance goals that promote engagement and success for the individuals they serve. The Swift Response Team Award was presented to the team from the Minot office for providing timely services that meet the needs and expectations of clients.
Grand Forks office team member Kevin Matze was named Rookie of the Year. This award honors a Vocational Rehabilitation employee who has less than two years of service, exceeds performance goals, and displays a high level of community service and involvement.
The Pillar Award was presented to Dawn Anderson from the Minot office. This award recognizes support staff who contribute to the success of individuals with disabilities to become employed.
Vocational Rehabilitation also presented career achievement awards, which are based on the number of people with disabilities placed into employment over the course of a vocational rehabilitation counselor’s career. Pam Feist of the Bismarck office, Wes Heinley of the Jamestown office, and Chelsy Sondrol of the Grand Forks office received the Career Achievement – 100 Club Award. Erik Anthony of the Grand Forks office and Rebecca Martin of the Fargo office received the Career Achievement – 200 Club Award. Jacque Harder of the Fargo office received the Career Achievement – 500 Club Award.
Vocational Rehabilitation team members provide assessments and counseling to help individuals with disabilities identify strengths and goals. They also connect individuals to training, education, assistive technology, and supportive services, and provide job placement assistance.
To receive vocational rehabilitation services, individuals must have a disability that is an impediment to employment, and they must want to work and be available to work. Many of the individuals served have a physical or cognitive disability.
Vocational Rehabilitation also connects businesses to qualified prospective employees who can meet their workforce needs and can help businesses retain employees affected by disabilities and find solutions to other disability-related issues.