We recently completed an online “virtual institute” for the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) that brought teams from six states together with leaders from Washington to consider innovative approaches to reemployment services for the Nation’s unemployed.
The “Reemployment Connections Virtual Institute” saw states form cross-functional teams that followed a scripted process over an intensive, six-week timeline. State teams were brought together in an online institute – using virtual meetings, training sessions, in-person state-level meetings and scheduled topical chats with subject matter experts to drive the process. State team facilitators worked in concert with a national facilitator to keep teams on track, and a dedicated web community was used for sharing best practices by and between states.
The outcomes from the Institute were state plans to re-connect UI claimants to re-employment services using both technology-based and in-person service delivery strategies. IT enhancements, like a single, integrated sign-in for customers enrolled in multiple programs, to a customer profile page that helps to triage and route customers based on needs are central ideas for many states. These solutions allow customers access to online services and help lower traffic in local Job Center offices. Teams are also pushing forward with innovative uses of social media to build awareness about service offerings, but also to deliver online services like job fairs and sector-based matching solutions (connecting job seekers with employers and even educational opportunities).
State teams learned from subject matter experts at both the state and local levels who have been early adopters in using new technology to improve the connection of unemployment insurance recipients (and really all job seekers) with reemployment services. Subject matter experts from “pilot states” (those who had already worked with technology innovations) helped to inform “implementer state teams” about lessons learned and tips for moving forward effectively.
The Reemployment Connections Virtual Institute helped to build a focus and expand best practices for connecting the unemployed with new opportunities and for integration of service delivery strategies that can bring new efficiencies to the workforce system.
As importantly we think, our partnership with DOL in pioneering the use of technology in learning and strategic planning activities like this “virtual institute” is proving it can be an effective method for capacity-building and technical assistance – one that works, saves money on travel and minimizes time away from the job for participants.
We believe this form of “virtual technical assistance” is an important innovation for our customers, one that can help to building capacity and align policy to practice much more efficiently than traditional models of technical assistance.