By any set of standards, the Employ Florida Marketplace — the State of Florida's online destination for job seekers and employers looking for labor exchange services — was a success. The system, powered by Geographic Solutions' Virtual OneStop product, supported a high volume of users, routinely offered hundreds of thousands of job postings, and facilitated the connection between people seeking jobs and the employers who were looking for them.
Even though the state's existing version of Virtual OneStop — Version 7 — served job seekers and employers well, the early success of the labor exchange services offered by the Employ Florida Marketplace emboldened Workforce Florida and the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI) to take the next step. The result? A fully integrated case management system that offers support for Wagner-Peyser and Workforce Investment Act activities and is compliant with the requirements of Common Measures.
"We take great pride in the fact that we were so successful with our labor exchange system that Florida decided to expand to a fully integrated workforce system. To date this was the largest system we've deployed," said Geographic Solutions president Paul Toomey.
"There are always challenges in converting a system this large, but through teamwork and communication with our client, we were able to develop a truly extraordinary solution."
Development for the Version 8 upgrade began in July 2006 and continued throughout the final quarter of the year as Geographic Solutions staff worked with Workforce Florida and AWI to customize Virtual OneStop to meet the client's unique needs. The system went live on January 12, 2007.
The biggest challenge for the development team was converting the data from the state's former case management system and importing it into Virtual OneStop. The conversion was the largest that Geographic Solutions had ever attempted — over 44 million Wagner-Peyser service records, 5 million job referrals, and 2.5 million individual case files needed to be brought into the system in a usable format.
The complexity of the data conversion also challenged the team. With Geographic Solutions providing guidance on how best to import the legacy data into the new system, the client was able to "clean" much of their data before conversion was started. Crosswalks were established to provide relationships between old and new data fields. Business rules were created for a variety of scenarios in order to create the cleanest data conversion possible.
Building a better system was just the first step. The next challenge was easing staff into changing the way they did business on a daily basis. Even though Virtual OneStop is an easy-to-learn, user-friendly system, change is still a difficult thing to manage when you're dealing with hundreds of staff users across the state.
Geographic Solutions had provided in-depth training to the client prior to launch, but to further address any hesitancy in adopting the new system, the company sent teams of trainers to all 24 of the Local Workforce Investment Areas in the state in the first few days after the system debuted. These experts assisted staff in logging in and getting comfortable with the new system, showing them how Virtual OneStop can make keeping up with their daily activities a more streamlined process.
Some of the more noteworthy features added to Version 8 of Virtual OneStop include:
Wizards that streamlined data collection for case management. The Employ Florida Marketplace offers staff users a multi-step wizard that allows information to be added easily for individuals accessing Workforce Investment Act and Wagner-Peyser programs. The system walks the user through a series of screens, prompting them for eligibility information for the individual. Staff can stop at any point in the wizard and save the information, then finish the application later.
Advanced labor exchange job search capability. The system now allows users to search multiple job sources as well as access additional advanced keyword search options when looking for job postings. Job seekers can now look for jobs using search parameters such as occupation title, occupation description, and lay job title. When job search results are returned, the system displays a Key Match column showing where the keyword was found in the job order (job title, description, occupation title, etc.).
Multiple options for federal reporting. A new query tool has been added that lets authorized staff access all database tables and fields, and easily create their own queries. Staff users can also save reports (and their filters and parameters), as well as access a report that summarizes activity in the system by time and region.
Version 8 of Virtual OneStop also includes the ability to email jobs of interest to friends, a new job order status screen to help employers manage their employment openings, and a mass referral capability (for both individual and employers) for staff.
Workforce Florida, AWI, the 24 regional workforce boards and the close to 100 one-stops — all known collectively as "Employ Florida" — are mounting an aggressive marketing campaign to make Floridians aware of the system and its features. Radio, television, and print advertisements are appearing throughout the state in both English and Spanish versions, ensuring that all Floridians have access to the workforce development services offered by the Employ Florida Marketplace.
Despite the challenges faced with the project, the partnership between Geographic Solutions and Workforce Florida resulted in the most advanced, user-friendly online workforce development system available today — the Employ Florida Marketplace.
Access the new Employ Florida Marketplace system at www.employflorida.com.