With a record number of Americans out of work, state and local governments are facing unprecedented challenges in transforming the way they help workers navigate their personal paths to economic recovery from the pandemic. Through the thoughtful use of digital tools and data, states and localities have the ability to not only meet the needs of workers in this present moment but position themselves to serve workers and employers for years to come in previously unimaginable ways.
Transforming Workplace Efforts
In 2015, the introduction of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) kicked off a five-year run in which state and local governments—and the agencies they partner with—began to radically shift the way they help learners and workers navigate career pathways, and assist employers in identifying the exact skills needed to fill open positions, helping close the unemployment gap.
With the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing employers across the U.S. into laying off employees, millions of workers have now been displaced from their jobs, leaving them to find, and be properly trained for, new positions. As part of the CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Education announced $127.5 million in Reimagine Workforce Preparation grants, to accelerate states’ transformation in education, training, and workforce efforts.
Requirements and Possibilities
As a part of these grants, states and stakeholders must adopt a level of data transparency and commit to structuring their data in a way that makes the data more useable and easier to securely exchange with systems other than their own. At first glance, these requirements may appear daunting to many states and stakeholders who are seeking funding. But within these requirements, there are many possibilities for radical and rapid innovation. States, local governments, and private organizations that embrace and implement these data transparency and interoperability standards will find it substantially easier to:
- Improve and scale the amount of publicly-available information. Learners and workers will have more information available to them than ever before to guide them as they choose which education and training programs will lead to their desired employment outcomes and have the greatest return on their educational investment.
- Create digital Learning and Employment Records (LERs) that translate and aggregate all of a learner’s education, training, and work experience into a single portable, digital record. LERs provide learners and workers with verifiable records that present to potential employers a fuller picture of their knowledge, skills, and accomplishments, and also empower governments to gain a clearer picture of learners’ and workers’ needs.
- Streamline data collection and data sharing efforts, saving huge amounts of time and money that are currently spent on tasks like resolving duplicate records or attempting to transfer data between siloed and non-interoperable systems.
Workforce Interoperability Partnership
Because of our existing relationships with state systems and institutional leaders, the members of the Workforce Interoperability Partnership (Concentric Sky, DXtera, Credential Engine, and BrightHive) know firsthand that many organizations desire, more than ever, to accelerate digital transformation and innovation to meet the current–and future–needs of workers, learners, educators and employers. But we also know firsthand that many states and municipalities lack the current capacity or expertise to successfully navigate transformation efforts.
To meet this exact challenge, we recently formed this partnership to support states in accelerating skills-based education, hiring, and workforce innovation while meeting next-generation requirements for data interoperability and transparency.
The Workforce Interoperability Partnership members have been leading digital transformation efforts across education and workforce ecosystems and are well-positioned to help states not only meet specific grant requirements, but also to set up their agencies, networks, and entire ecosystems for a more connected, learner- and worker-centered future, so that they can deliver quality programs, social services, and job opportunities for every American.