Responsible for managing publicly funded career training for approximately 300,000 Florida residents every year, Jerry Leyendecker needed an evaluation tool with credible results. As Assistant Director for One Stop Center System Support, South Florida Workforce his mission is to ensure that all clients are job ready. His tool of choice is Valpar’s Aviator software.
The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and Florida’s Workforce Innovation Act of 2000 directed South Florida’s Workforce to use one or more assessment tools when evaluating their clients. Anyone using South Florida Workforce’s One Stop Centers who qualifies for financial support for work training must take the Aviator assessment. In this way the career center ensures that the clients are taking the appropriate training for careers they are most likely to succeed at. Clients fall into two categories: those who don’t have any idea as to a career choice and those who have career interests but are unsure if they should pursue them.
Priority customers are those on welfare, many of whom are single women and heads of households. Others are the working poor who are at or below the poverty level, and those at age extremes - the very young and the elderly.
Between 100,000 and 150,000 people who come to one of the 28 One Stop Centers are unemployed through no fault of their own and are seeking unemployment compensation. They are required to come to the center in order to receive unemployment compensation. Our goal is to intervene where possible to help these people find employment, said Leyendecker.
The other half of annual clientele are walk-ins. They are not eligible for special unemployment resources, so the Aviator assessment is not required. However, Aviator is not restricted from use with the general population. If a career counselor feels that Aviator might help these customers, he or she will use it.
We utilize Aviator to help our clients decide on a career choice that’s right for them, said Leyendecker. Appealing careers are reflected in Aviator’s interest assessment, while the aptitude assessment identifies clients’ strengths. Through the aptitude assessment, we can identify what training is needed for a specific career choice.
South Florida Workforce has been using Aviator for two years. It was chosen over other assessment tools because of its credibility and because it’s criterion-referenced. A test was needed that would measure actual skills and interests and compare those with occupational requirements. In fact, staffers were tested first and the results were compared to their actual employment. The results were either right on the money or close.
Another interesting feature of the Aviator program is the option of using either the mouse or a simple adaptive hand control for the testing. The hand control takes the mouse out of the equation and levels the playing field for all customers by eliminating the advantage of prior computer experience. It provides a user-friendly and simple method for interacting with Aviator that helps eliminate computer phobia.
Leyendecker was also impressed by Aviator’s flexibility and the ability to customize reports. There is more participation by the administrator, who can manipulate the test approach for each client to reveal those things the test givers want to know. The results are used, not only to help clients realize what skills and training are needed for a specific career, but also to guide caseworkers as they advise customers. Often the results lead to clients discovering careers they never considered before.
Most federally-funded training programs require the use of some kind of assessment. Any guide or tool can be misused or misinterpreted, but we try to use it to our best ability, said Leyedecker. Aviator is an assessment tool that can be used and managed on a day-to-day basis, without becoming just a formality. With Aviator, we are able to continually refine our approach, which translates into improved service to our clients.