With national unemployment at 9.3 percent, One Stop centers, sponsored across the country by the U.S. Department of Labor to serve the unemployed, face the issue of offering services and training to larger numbers of customers despite reduced budgets. Electronic Based Training (EBT) helps overcome this issue.
US Wired for Education of Albany, New York, designed Metrix Learning as a technology platform to provide a powerful, cost-effective service supporting the One Stop system. Metrix Learning gives job seekers 90-day access to thousands of learning resources from content providers, such as SkillSoft, Kenexa and Medcom-Trainex. Users are able to choose from those resources in order to upgrade their skills or learn new skills. The Metrix Learning solution integrates online course delivery with skill assessments, setting job goals using O*NET, customized and managed learning plans, and connection to local job opportunities.
Metrix Learning began in 2008. So far, One Stop customers have consumed over 218,000 hours of training under licenses that Metrix provides. At present, One Stops in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and the Virgin Islands are using the platform.
Sacramento Employment & Training Agency (SETA) piloted Metrix. In 30 days, 106 SETA customers completed 954 hours of training. One customer who utilized the Six Sigma Green Belt content offered by SkillSoft reported that she passed the certification exam on her first attempt. The cost of this electronic delivery was $260, versus a classroom cost of $2,500. The customer expressed her satisfaction with the SkillSoft mentoring staff by mentioning how “very supportive and responsive” they were throughout her process. Four One Stops participated in the pilot, and after the pilot SETA decided to use Metrix in all 14 One Stops.
The Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) in Riverside, California also participated in a pilot in which welfare clients received licenses to use Metrix Learning. In 30 days, 25 customers consumed 651 hours of training; two of the customers found employment by the end of the pilot. One of the administrators of the program selected seven SkillSoft courses and took each course herself before assigning them to clients to be sure they could benefit from the content. One user noted that, “Metrix has tremendously boosted my self esteem and made me more aware of the things that I can do. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”
US Wired for Education participates in a unique partnership, ALLbany Online, which has come together to offer free services to Albany, NY-area citizens. Citizens can receive reading literacy assistance, digital literacy training, job-skill updating, free Internet in select areas, and the opportunity to get a low cost computer. The goal is to directly impact the job readiness of unemployed citizens. Funding for the partnership comes from the federal government, so this program can be replicated in any city in America, particularly those with high unemployment, high poverty levels, and budget issues. As part of the program, US Wired for Education facilitates a partnership between libraries, One Stops, and community-based organizations. In April, the organization will also begin a similar endeavor for the Queens Library by delivering Metrix Learning solutions in Jamaica, Long Island City, and Far Rockaway. Metrix Learning will be available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. Additional SkillSoft courses will be available in 15 more languages. As a measure of the size of this initiative, note that the Queens Library is the sixth busiest library in the world and has 62 branch locations. Additionally, the borough of Queens has the largest percentage of foreign-born citizens among New York boroughs.
Metrix Learning is a powerful, flexible platform that fully embraces the breadth of SkillSoft content. The applications are limitless. For example, most state governments are looking for alternatives to spending $35,000 a year per prisoner on incarceration. To help reduce recidivism, Metrix Learning is beginning an innovative program with the Altamont Program Inc. for citizens recently released from incarceration. Participant literacy and job skills will be enhanced in programs delivered in Albany, Brooklyn, and Syracuse.
Metrix Learning pilots are currently ongoing in Los Angeles County, San Francisco, Lancaster, Pennsylvania (to be used by various populations such as business services, job club, recently incarcerated, welfare, and youth), and Fort Worth, Texas. Pilots will also be starting by early April, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale and other locations in Florida, and in Massachusetts.