vulnerability + optimism in uncertain times
It's a probable (and broken) reality that the near future holds a 15-30% unemployment rate. Current systems, state governments and processes are unequipped for an influx of job seekers and consumers who need support during uncertain times.
This reality isn't new to us. It brings us back to an engagement with Pennsylvania (PA) CareerLink®, the Commonwealth's workforce development system.
PA CareerLink® center locations in Pennsylvania
PA CareerLink® centers provide a wealth of job support services. In addition to the government-funded services offered as programs, there is a softer side of support that comes from the center staff and the empathy they have for their clients. PA CareerLink® services are provided with the job seeker’s best interests in mind. Individually each service may be excellent, but challenges arise at the points of transition and coordination.
The job search is not only professional, but personal. We went into the project knowing that as an agency, but more importantly as people. We knew that ethnographic and personal research could help us understand the human experience behind the broken reality of job seeking.
In the Capitol region PA CareerLink® office, we explored the services by assuming the role of a job seeker new to the area, who had lost his job in the move and was interested in exploring training opportunities. As a job seeker, we hoped to speak with someone about our particular interests, available training, and any alternatives that might be a good fit. Our expectations were not met.
We found that an absence of program awareness, transportation difficulties, a lack of empowered leadership, spatial challenges that lead to privacy concerns, and other barriers led to a less than ideal experience for all involved. Consumers loved the programs, information, and assistance that PA CareerLink® provided them, but found confusion with the experiences along the way.
These are likely universal problems that seem like they need coordination from many different entities to become efficient. PA CareerLink® itself can't adjust public transportation schedules or create new stops closer to its physical building.
Instead we need to ask ourselves how we can make these services more accessible to users without needing to jump through hoops. And how we can innovate and implement now.
Before stepping into a PA CareerLink® center, we asked ourselves key questions like, “How can a brick and mortar uniquely serve job seekers?”, “What are the internal relationships within PA CareerLink®?”, and “What is the overall experience for job seeker?” Guided by these questions, we identified five opportunities for innovation, which we call the “5 ways forward.” They address areas vital to the PA CareerLink® process that can be improved through comprehensive actionable steps.
- Cultivate employee cohesiveness and morale
- Improve ways of protecting and sharing information
- Provide support for overcoming personal barriers
- Develop tools for managing client expectations
- Expand community outreach
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