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A new portal is yielding record numbers for the state's employment department and giving case workers more quality time with customers.
Colin Wood is the managing editor of StateScoop. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine. Before that, he taught Engl...
Six months in, Washington state officials say increased activity on their new jobs portal is changing how case workers spend their time and validates suspicion that the old system wasn't working.
The portal — called WorksourceWA — was deployed mid-2016 as a joint project with Monster, the jobs website. The result so far, said Dale Peinecke, commissioner of the Washington Employment Security Department, is that more people using state services to find employment as the economy improves, and state employees are able to spend more quality time with job seekers instead of serving as clerks who shuffle papers.
The portal's launch prompted a lot more activity for the state. In the past six months, accounts have been created by more than 115,000 job seekers and more than 6,000 employers. The number of resumes submitted to the department rose from 5,000 to 9,000 monthly. Job applications rose from about 38,000 to 48,000, and while the state's old portal received about 600,000 monthly job searches, the new portal receives about 1.1 million monthly searches.
Increased activity isn't the result of more people out of work. Washington state is, in fact, ahead of the curve on a national job market on the rebound. A majority of states reported drops in unemployment in recent months, according to a report published in December by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with Washington job gains among the leaders of the pack, with a more than 3 percent increase in number of jobs statewide.
That so many people are using the state's portal is not only a testament to the success of the project, Peinecke said, but also proof that the labor exchange landscape was fragmented and not serving the population as well as it could have been.
"It's not particularly well-organized and it's not particularly efficient so we teamed with Monster to bring WorksourceWA, which contains all the power of Monster in a focused way for Washington employers and Washington job seekers, really begins to create a more organized, robust exchange," Peinecke said. "… At the highest level, it's all about jobs. And if you don't believe that, just look back at last November."
WorksourceWA was designed to find efficiencies and save time for everyone who touches it. The portal requires users to create an account and complete a questionnaire that ties into other state programs, like financial assistance, therefore streamlining the paperwork and thought process for any job seeker. For employers, the software automates matches with potential hires.
"That means our career counselors can now spend more time in group and individual settings working with employers helping understand what skills gaps they're seeing or sitting down with job seekers who need some help and encouragement or might be land what it is they're looking for," Peinecke said. "We're moving our people to a higher and better use, which helps our clients and it's helping us retain our professionals, who really want to spend their time helping clients and not doing administrative work."
The portal was launched relatively quickly, Peinecke said, which is a testament to the use agile, an iterative development methodology, and also conducive to the addition of new features and operational changes at the state.
"Agile's the only way to go," he said. "Interesting thing about agile though, is that it means the project's never done."
And there are new additions in store. The state has been pursuing partnerships with local community and technical colleges following comments made by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee that not everyone's career path should involve a four-year degree, he said. By getting students signed into the portal while they're still in school, the state hopes to avoid employment gaps. There are career-connected education opportunities, Peinecke said, wherein people begin talking to work counselors and considering trade-based education earlier in their lives with help from state's resources.