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How Technology Can Empower the Workforce

It's time to accept that we are forever living in a world where people need more personalized help.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Remote working is now a way of life for many companies and industries. Companies that would have never considered remote working are being forced to do so, many choosing not to return, and others are coming back at a reduced capacity. Even the healthcare industry is seeing telehealth as a major component of their patient treatment strategy. Why see a doctor in person if treatment can occur over a video call?

An overwhelming truth has emerged from the pandemic: We don't need to see each other in person to do business and many people can be productive on the move, at home or working remotely from a cabin or coffee shop.

Too many choices

While having an option to virtually speak with a case manager about employment options solves one issue, it doesn't solve another. The US spends almost $2 trillion annually on education and training activities that lead to credentials, and currently, there are nearly one million options to choose from, capturing all post-secondary degrees, certifications, licenses and apprenticeships.

Without knowing which credentials specific employers value and seek, job seekers are often at a loss when trying to decide how best to build the skills and credentials they need to be successful. With the unemployment rate at 6.3 percent plus the 6.5 million people that have just given up and dropped out of the workforce, potentially 15.2 million Americans need clear career guidance and support today.

To deepen the confusion, private companies have entered the credential space to offer certifications in their software and programming. Now job seekers can apply to learn from Google, Facebook and Amazon, among others, and become certified professionals in fields like data analytics, digital marketing and cloud migration.

This is very similar to what happened in the 1980s, when personal computers were new and you couldn't learn about them in college. Instead, you had to get certified by the manufacturer. Stacking these types of certifications established my career and that of many people that are successful today.

Related: Streamline Your Remote Workforce with This Seamless Tool

Connecting the dots

So, what happens when someone gets services from multiple government agencies and private non-profits, and certifications from five or more organizations? For them, interacting with all these programs is as frustrating as going to the doctor's office and filling out the same forms every single time like they never knew you. It's even worse across government agencies. Due to their siloed systems, credential data is rarely securely shared between agencies, making it hard for professionals to make informed recommendations to help someone in their career. Also, decision-makers can't identify how well their educational systems map to labor market needs.

Sadly, in practice, job seekers are often flying without wings, seeking education and professional growth opportunities that do not directly relate to local employment needs. Knowing that a specific industry is struggling to gain talent in an area should be addressed by workforce case managers and educational institutions alike. Instead, we often end up with job seekers becoming qualified in skills that are not in high demand. This leads to debt without a return, the need for further education and training, or unrelated careers with no path to personal success.

This is where case management systems, if properly integrated with the services and credentialing systems, can step in. By eliminating the need for participants to travel to a workforce center, the career pathing, job search and application process can be dramatically streamlined. It's vital that as we recover from the pandemic, we remove as many barriers as possible between job seekers, career and education resources, and employers.

Using the next generation of CMS technology, disparate systems can be integrated across multiple agencies, programs and providers into unified learning, services and employment records for career planning. This enables a more personalized and relevant experience for each person in need of resources and guidance. By securely unifying data in this way, but still allowing the individual to control who sees that data, it's easy for case managers to make informed recommendations for career development and employment as part of a plan. It also enables state and education officials to determine how to best allocate resources to support local employer needs.

Related: What's the Future of Work? A Hybrid Workforce

Better outcomes for all

For the workforce, the pandemic presented unthinkable challenges, with in-person restrictions, the closing of almost all service centers and a huge shift to remote work.

Knowing there are solutions out there to help match people in need of career help with the opportunities they're looking for and the skills-based training they need, it's encouraging to see a large amount of American Rescue Plan funding allocated to state and local governments.

As these organizations begin to pick and choose the technology vendors they plan to work with, I'd like to offer one piece of advice: Stop trying to build monolithic, inflexible custom applications that become stale the moment the initial request for proposal is fulfilled. Think like a business and look for more modern, flexible platforms that can grow and change with your organization and market conditions. Nobody wants another experience. The people you serve deserve better than that.

Related: 8 Ways the Crisis Will Forever Change the Future Workforce

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