Smart Data and Smart Workforce Development Lead to Better Outcomes

By Celeste Richie

Before May 2020, if you were looking for help finding a job or upskilling in Virginia, you might have had to navigate and apply to nine different agencies across the state, never being certain which services would be the best fit. If you were a workforce program manager, you would have been making decisions based on heavily lagged and sometimes incomplete data. To address these challenges, Virginia developed and launched a workforce data trust, connecting data across six agencies (with three more planned), a referral portal offering a single point of entry to all workforce customers, and performance dashboards to inform both the public and workforce officials.

“Workers and families across Virginia are experiencing tremendous financial pain, and in many cases on top of the devastation of getting sick or losing a loved one to COVID-19,” Governor Ralph Northam said, explaining Virginia’s data-driven approach. “This ongoing health crisis requires our government systems to respond faster and with more flexibility than ever before. This strategic investment in our workforce technology infrastructure puts the Commonwealth in a stronger position to help Virginians get back on their feet and overcome these unprecedented challenges.”

Virginia guided its work with this vision: “Public data infrastructure should power a more connected, open, and individual-centered opportunity data ecosystem in Virginia that more equitably and effectively empowers learners and workers to acquire new credentials and skills, increase their lifelong earnings, and enhance their employment resiliency.”

The new Virginia Career Works Dashboard helps policymakers and the public better understand the workforce system and labor conditions in the state.

Because eligibility determinations are frequently made using agency and program-specific data systems, customers previously had to go through duplicative intake processes. By linking Virginia’s data trust, referral portal, and performance dashboards this system better ensures that customers receive the full spectrum of services available, and workforce officials are able to manage programs using real-time data, all while realizing significant cost savings.

The three components of Virginia’s data solution include:

  1. Workforce Data Trust: Enabling the entire technology ecosystem is the Workforce Data Trust, a Virginia-owned, open-source software solution implemented in partnership with its developer, BrightHive. The data trust allows workforce system partners to securely and responsibly link their data to enhance their impact, empower data-driven decision making, and increase equity of opportunity.
  2. The Virginia Career Works Referral Portal: This web application will allow Virginians to explore a full spectrum of government services through an easy-to-use, self-directed software application. By gathering barrier-to-employment and need data in a unified application before making referrals to specific programs, they will dramatically streamline enrollment processes, reducing duplicative data entry for customers and staff.
  3. Two distinct performance dashboards: Virginia Career Works Dashboard: To help a broader audience understand the workforce system and labor conditions, Virginia stood up the Governor’s Workforce Dashboard using Apache Superset. The use of open-source technology in this area resulted in an estimated cost savings of more than 94% over traditional government approaches. Internal Performance Dashboard: For the secure operational reports used by frontline staff, field managers, and agency leadership, they are using Tableau.

“The new portal and strategic workforce dashboard embody Governor Northam’s vision for the workforce development system as a whole,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “By making the full spectrum of services accessible through one virtual door, we are bringing every resource to the table to help Virginians recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.”

For more information on efforts to use evidence and data to drive better results in workforce development, visit Results for America’s Evidence in Workforce Lab (Work Lab.)

Working with decision-makers at all levels of government to harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s greatest challenges.