State agency tasked with training people with disabilities for jobs is broken, director says

ATLANTA — The state agency that is supposed to train Georgians with disabilities and get them jobs is broken, says its current director.

Shawn Ryan told Channel 2 Investigative reporter Richard Belcher the problems include too many administrators, too much spending on travel and too few jobs for clients.

Ryan has worked for five agencies in Georgia state government.

He says the vocational rehabilitation agency --- GRVA --- is the third one he has run and the worst by far.

He told Belcher that the breadth and size of what he is doing at GRVA is unprecedented.

"It's unfortunate that this agency has gotten to this point, but I’m addressing systemic issues that have been ongoing for, you know, longer than a decade," Ryan said.


The shake-up at GRVA's central office comes after an independent review by Accenture.

Among the findings were fear, frustration and mistrust among staff, field staff members who say the state office neither understands their work nor supports them, and lax and ineffective budget controls.

Ryan said he cut staff travel costs about 60% after asking a simple question: “If where we were going and what we were doing was actually for the betterment of our clients, or it was just going to a conference because folks wanted to get out of the office. And quite frankly, that’s a lot of what had been going on,” he said.

Ryan told Belcher that he wants to keep staffers who are, in his words, “here for the right reason,” but he has a blunt message for everyone.

"Just because your position stayed and therefore you kept your job does not necessarily mean that that's an endorsement of your performance," Ryan said.

Too often given low priority, Ryan contends, are tens of thousands of Georgians with disabilities who want training and jobs.

He says the wrenching changes at GRVA will improve their odds.

"It's necessary work, because at the end of the day, we're not delivering services properly to the clients, and that's got to be the focus of the agency. So it is unfortunate and this is unpleasant," Ryan said.

The GRVA is awaiting another independent report examining how it delivers services.

We’ll be on that when it’s released.