The 2017 Code for America Fellowships: Helping People Find and Keep Work

The public workforce development system invests billions of dollars each year to help millions of people, including the long-term unemployed, laid off workers, individuals involved with the justice system, and opportunity youth, find and keep work. The changing nature of work and our economy were core issues at the center of the 2016 election and remain top of mind for people throughout the United States.

We need the workforce system to firing on all cylinders so it can help as many people as possible find immediate employment, job training, and fulfilling careers. To that end, I’m excited to announce our two government partners for the 2017 Code for America Economic Development fellowships— the Municipality of Anchorage, AK and the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

This year, we’re doubling down on helping people find and keep employment through the public workforce development system. Code for America launched this work in New Orleans in 2016 and will be building upon the tools developed there, like CareerPathNOLA.

Finding a job is hard and everyone has a different set of expectations of how the workforce system can help them. Our work with San Diego and Anchorage builds upon a common set of goals so we can share what we learn with partners and stakeholders across the country:

  • Improve job seekers’ access to public workforce services like career coaching, hard and soft skills training, job matching, etc.
  • Make information available digitally to set expectations and clearly communicate the steps and requirements for using public workforce resources
  • Improve communication between the workforce system case managers and job seekers

Developing a tool or suite of tools that meaningfully improves service delivery requires two important steps: 1) deepening our understanding of the ins and outs of the workforce system and 2) running a series of experiments that help focus our efforts. We can fulfill both steps through the fellowships. They are our way of conducting research and development that will help us improve how government programs, like career centers and state job boards, work so that more people can leverage the workforce system to find a job and increase their wages.

The Workforce Development Fellowships

The Anchorage Project

The Anchorage project is Code for America’s first fellowship in Alaska! Anchorage is emerging as one of America’s most innovative midsize cities, led by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. It recently hired its first Chief Innovation Officer, Code for Anchorage Co-Captain Brendan Babb, and launched an Open Data Portal. Additionally, Anchorage was selected as one of seven new cities in the expansion of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Team program.

Our partners in Anchorage have enlisted other community partners to help guide the project, including the Alaska Department of Labor, Anchorage Community Land Trust, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, Nine Stars Inc., among others. Together, we’re going to make workforce development services more accessible in Anchorage’s neighborhoods, like Mountain View, where there is significantly higher poverty and unemployment than in the rest of the city.

The San Diego Project

Our work with the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) pairs Code for America with a similarly innovative agency. As the workforce board for all of San Diego County (an area the size of Connecticut), SDWP funds career counseling, case management, and related services, as well as important training to help residents get jobs and stay employed. SDWP is also no stranger to human-centered design. SDWP staff have participated in the U.S. Department of Labor’s human-centered design course. Now, they’re excited to combine those practices with iterative software development to make career centers more accessible, improve communications with jobseekers, and otherwise ensure people get the help they need to get to work.

The Team

One of my favorite aspects of Code for America’s work is watching our fellows and staff work with our government partners to not only build technology but also to build capacity in user-centered design and process improvement. The Code for America Economic Development team working on these projects brings together expertise in design, research, engineering, and product management. In addition to Technical Product Manager Mike Hernandez and Program and Partnerships Manager Caitlin Docker, we’ve added a team of fellows. Clorama Dovillias, Adrienne Dreyfus, Kimberly Voisin, and Paras Sanghavi joined Code for America in February and will be working alongside our partners each step of the way.

Other Workforce Development Efforts

Our efforts to improve workforce development services do not end with our fellowships. While the program serves as the primary R&D for our workforce development tools, we’ll be accelerating our learning and research through a network of stakeholders around the country:

  • Code for America will support a community of practice of 15 workforce agencies looking at the various ways user-centered design and technology can improve service delivery through a partnership with the California Workforce Development Board.
  • Code for America will continue to support the community of workforce development professionals learning and applying human-centered design through a class offered by +Acumen and IDEO.org in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Our very own Caitlin Docker will be participating in the SNAP E&T Learning Academy, a cohort of local and national organizations trying to better connect SNAP recipients to workforce and training resources.

I’m so excited for what we’re going to learn and achieve with our partners this year. Click here to stay in the loop as we share our progress throughout the year.