COVID-19 has created an unprecedented and swift economic crisis that has kicked the public workforce system into high gear as they serve millions of job seekers looking for work. Workforce organizations across the country have been working tirelessly to support the communities they serve — by matching talent to open jobs, recommending training programs that can reskill job seekers, and providing critical wrap-around services that help job seekers navigate a rapidly changing labor market.
Job centers have long been the overwhelmed emergency rooms of a sickened economy. Just as emergency rooms across the country are using data to anticipate needs for medical equipment and staffing capacity, workforce organizations are seeking improved data capacity to make data-driven decisions to support the job seekers they serve. They want to know how to effectively triage — just as ERs do.
One workforce agency recently shared with us the strain that the pandemic has put on their agency’s ability to efficiently respond to the economic crisis stemming from technical and staffing capacity challenges. During the high point of COVID layoffs, their team scrambled to address up to 120,000 unemployment claims on a weekly basis — a huge increase from the 3,000 claims their team is used to processing in any given week. With such high demand on the system, it’s critical that we get timely, accurate data into the hands of workforce organizations when they need it most.
Workforce organizations are seeking to improve service delivery and increase the quality, cost, and effectiveness of education and training programs offered in their regions. Putting in place the data, metrics, and analyses needed to evaluate program outcomes will require substantial improvements to data infrastructure and an increased capacity for using data to drive decision-making.
The Outcomes for Opportunity Initiative, led by Jobs for the Future (JFF) in partnership with BrightHive and National Association of Workforce Boards, will address this challenge head on by equipping these organizations with the tools, technologies, and capacity they need to better understand and communicate what works (and what doesn’t) in workforce development and job training programs.
This two-year pilot program will give workforce development boards and nonprofit job training providers the ability to make better use of outcomes data. Funded by Google.org, this people-centric approach will enable workforce professionals to put ‘user-needs’ at the center of data collection, product development, and system design. The initiative will increase the availability, accessibility, aggregation, and analysis of data and information as a means of improving economic opportunity for workers nationwide.
At BrightHive, we’ve seen firsthand the painful experiences that organizations face when attempting to share data responsibly and securely. We’ve worked closely with dozens of organizations to rapidly and responsibly collaborate with data to enable new insights. We do this primarily through data trusts that support our partners in working through the cultural, technical, political, and governance barriers to data sharing.
As a partner to JFF in this new initiative, the BrightHive team will support the development of local and national data sharing infrastructures that will collect accurate, reliable, and timely data across a wide range of services and operations to help workforce boards stay ahead of emerging trends. BrightHive will be working closely with JFF and a cohort of workforce boards to develop an interconnected network powered by a legal, technical, and governance frameworks that support responsible and ethical data sharing among a “minimum viable coalition” of training and workforce organizations.
Getting data into the hands of workforce organizations is critical to our nation’s economic recovery. With this new initiative, BrightHive and JFF look forward to supporting the workforce development community in building data collaborations both locally and across the country.