[This will be the first in a series of posts that outline SCPa Works’ on-going efforts to identify and implement innovative ways to redesign and improve the one-stop delivery system for job seekers.]hcd image

At SCPa Works, we are driven by the principle of continuous improvement. Around the office, we often remark that the strategic planning process never really stops. We are constantly engaged in a process of evaluating, designing, implementing, and re-evaluating our services to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our job seekers and employers in an ever-changing labor market.

As part of our on-going efforts to identify and implement innovative ways to redesign the one-stop delivery system, SCPa Works staff collaborated with the PA CareerLink® Site Administrators on a course entitled “Human Centered Design” (HCD) over the past few months. The premise of the HCD theory is to develop a framework for developing solutions by placing people (in this case, job seekers coming into the PA CareerLinks®) at the center of the system and designing, building and implementing the services that best help them find jobs.

Here’s the basic idea: organizations typically spend a significant portion of our time designing solutions from a perspective of managing budget constraints, complex rules and regulations and political feasibility. While this is necessary and prudent for planning purposes, it is sometimes helpful to take a step or two back and think about what a system would look like if you removed these constraints and simply designed a solution with your customer in mind.

The HCD course walked us through various frameworks within which we could start to answer our key questions by asking the right questions: How are we placing people into jobs? How do we do a better job of finding potential customers? What infrastructure we need to do that? What barriers do job seekers face? What services to they really valuable? The human centered design approach is founded on the premise that as long as we keep the needs of the job seeker at the center of the system, the most effective solutions will emerge.

Through online coursework, research, interviews with job seekers, brainstorming sessions, and constant prototyping, the SCPa Works team is identifying key areas where resources could be best directed to help improve the one-stop system for job seekers coming into the PA CareerLink® center.

The early results of the research has confirmed that the key strength of our system is the compassionate, informed and dedicated staff that “care about the job seeker being successful.” To that end, each Site Administrator is developing a “prototype model” using HCD principles to help foster that at their one-stop center. Specifically, the solution is to develop a new position known as a one-stop “concierge” whose sole job is to provide interpersonal service and assistance to every job seeker that walks into the PA CareerLink®. This concierge will inform job seekers of services available, record demographic information, make referrals, and be responsible for a follow-up call to a week later to check in on that job seeker.

In other words, the first five minutes of a visit to a PA CareerLink® is extremely important to the success of our customers.

Each Site Administrator is developing their own plan for how to staff the position, including volunteers and shared assignments with their unique staffing needs. Each position is budget neutral (no new costs incurred) by using existing human resources and technology already in the PA CareerLinks®. As part of our continuous improvement process, we will reconvene this group in a few months to evaluate the success of the concierge position, and develop new strategies for improving services.

Using these findings, we will increasingly focus our efforts on providing job seekers with helpful, in-person support, and the follow-up services that are critical to ensuring that we are reaching and retaining our PA CareerLink® customers. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll outline some of our ideas about how we can better design a one-stop system that reaches job seekers in rural populations, embed our services within existing community organizations, and make our services increasingly more mobile.

It’s all part of our ongoing effort to build an innovative, dynamic public workforce system that is responsive to the needs of job seekers and employers, and investing in and evaluating what works as entrusted stewards of public resources.

More to come…