Helping Jobseekers Find Employment in the Pandemic: How AJCs are Providing Remote Career Navigation Services

Terri Kaufman - Workforce Development Specialist ·

All across the U.S. and beyond, an increase in virtual employment services is happening in countless regions as record numbers of Americans are out of work. Local workforce boards are answering the call for help by identifying innovative ways to help jobseekers gain broader access to stable, long-term opportunities. For workforce center staff members, effectively serving customers – particularly jobseekers – is an ongoing priority.

Federal job training programs have remained a popular go-to strategy for solving skills gaps, a problem that employers frame as a hiring priority. This remains true today, even in current conditions. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a projected loss of 195 million jobs, the negative impact is affecting jobseekers, especially vulnerable groups of all ages and causing detrimental interruptions to education and training, not to mention a widening of the skills gap. Preparing people to learn and thrive in a post-COVID environment is the current challenge regions are facing.

In the following blog, we’ll review WIOA’s career services delivery methods, dive deeper into the role of a career navigator and share workforce tools and innovations that help to meet the needs of jobseekers in our ever-changing economy.

American Job Centers, WIOA and Career Services Delivery

Experts say coping with and recovering from the economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic requires a new, tech-forward approach to regional hiring and workforce development. In response, AJCs are providing more flexibility in offering program services by using online and virtual options for education and training for various workforce programs. Digital tools, software and online resources are critical in providing virtual services while still meeting all the eligibility requirements associated with WIOA, which supports a workforce system that delivers career and training services at the nation’s nearly 2,400 American Job Centers across the U.S.

Under WIOA, partner programs and entities that are jointly responsible for workforce and economic development, educational, and other human resource programs, collaborate to create a seamless network that integrates service delivery across all programs. This makes it easier for workers to access the services they need to obtain skills and employment, whether that is in a virtual or in-person format.

In recent months, we wrote an in-depth blog about providing virtual workforce services in this trying time. Here is a link to that best virtual practices blog.

What is a Career Navigator?

Let’s look more closely at the role workforce professionals – particularly career navigators – play during this time of increased virtual access. To be clear, the role of a career navigator is defined below:

A career navigator’s job is to coach, motivate, support, remove barriers and connect people to resources, tools and training and prepare them to be successful in the workplace. In many regions, career navigators work to bridge the gap between trained workers and unfilled jobs in the skilled trades and other high-growth industries.

Career navigation professionals are trained to recognize the skill sets of each individual client and assist them in understanding job opportunities and trainings that may be required to succeed in the workforce.

Career Navigation Services

Career navigation services include activities intended to help individuals of any age and at any point in their lives make educational, training, and occupational choices and manage their careers. Such services may be found in secondary schools, colleges, universities, training institutions, public employment services, the workplace, the volunteer or community sector, and the private sector. The activities may occur on an individual or group basis, or be in person or virtual.

Working with Career Navigators at AJCs provides many benefits:

  • access to no-cost training and workshops
  • opportunity to earn training certificates
  • access to career and skills assessments
  • one-on-one coaching and assistance in writing resumes and cover letters
  • assistance with completing electronic applications
  • personal assistance in locating employment opportunities in various industries
  • skill upgrades and training services
  • transition services

All the opportunities listed above can help move workers into post-secondary educational pipelines and career pathways to enter into and advance in quality jobs in high-growth occupations.

Providing Remote Services to Clients

Meeting the remote needs of clients, while meeting WIOA eligibility requirements, has required AJCs to modify their enrollment process by utilizing online resources, digital tools and software. The use of videoconferencing for “face-to-face” interactions with various partners and employers allows customers in affiliate sites and access points to virtually receive services typically only offered onsite at centers. Providing remote services enhances communication opportunities between jobseekers and career navigators or center staff by offering a variety of connection options, whether it be via video, social media, text message, app or specialized software.

Many AJCs allow both jobseeker and employer customers to remotely access secure, web-based services such as labor market information, unemployment insurance and Career links. Onsite and offsite partners routinely make referrals via phone or email, and information regarding AJC services is made available on the system's website and social media channels. Livestreaming is another method some AJCs use to reach customers on social media in order to promote events such as job fairs, networking events or training workshops.

Speaking of training, many AJCs have started providing access to real-time, virtual education and training workshops. These services can be provided onsite or virtually as a pre-recorded webinar or through the variety of video conferencing software options such as Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime or Skype.

Jobseekers are signing up for these types of virtual workshops and trainings in record numbers at AJCs:

  • Online Job Searching
  • Mock interviews
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Virtual job fairs

To best serve jobseekers and clients remotely, AJC’s should consider adapting – if they haven’t already – their enrollment and service processes by utilizing as many of the above listed digital tools as possible, while continuing to meet all the eligibility requirements associated with WIOA. The following are examples of remote service offerings:

  • Coordinating and scheduling online interviews via email, text, video chat or social media
  • Conducting virtual job fairs
  • Conducting real-time, virtual education and training workshops and webinars (as listed above)
  • Conducting online skill assessments
  • Utilizing “E-Signature” software to obtain signatures in a secure manner
  • Converting documents so that information can be electronically transmitted to customers
  • Providing a secure email address for documents to be transmitted

Comprehensive Follow-up Services

One of the best ways to ensure jobseeker success is to provide comprehensive follow-up services. Individuals who are placed in unsubsidized employment for up to 12 months after their first day of employment are provided follow-up services. Counseling is considered to be a follow-up service and is also offered to those in need at any time.

Service Delivery Success Metrics

The success of any service delivery must involve tracking, feedback and performance analytics. WIOA requires workforce development programs to track skills training participation rates using various metrics. State and local workforce development boards, which oversee the implementation of WIOA, are held accountable to six common performance measures, listed below. These serve as indicators to assess the effectiveness of programs in achieving positive outcomes for employers and jobseekers.

6 WIOA Primary Indicators of Performance

1. Employment in the short-term

2. Employment in the longer-term

3. Earnings level

4. Credential attainment rate

5. Measurable skill gains

6. Effectiveness in serving employers

Remote career navigation increases the efficiency of the service delivery process by reaching more jobseekers in innovative and convenient ways and allowing them to receive the help they need to increase their skills, become self-sufficient and secure employment.

In the coming months and even years, the workforce system will continue to face unprecedented challenges, serving unimaginable numbers of jobseekers in a constantly changing and uncertain time in history.

Have you developed new strategies, aligned resources and offered professional development trainings for partner agencies to ensure quality service delivery are available onsite and remotely? How are you going to engage these partners and determine whether these services are meeting the needs of individuals and businesses for in-demand careers? What steps are you taking to ensure that the services are being delivered onsite and remotely in AJCs?

For more information and guidance on how you can best support jobseekers, reach out to us today.