8 Wicked Problems, One Wicked Solution: How PRIME Transforms Career/Employment Services

8 Wicked Problems, One Wicked Solution: How PRIME Transforms Career/Employment Services

May 20, 2020

In the face of complex and constricting labour markets, clients with multiple barriers and limited resources, there has perhaps never been a time when efficient, innovative and impactful employment services are more needed. 

Frontline employment services want the best possible outcomes for their clients and funders want to know that they are getting a strong return on investment. However, current data management and reporting systems and professional support tools are limited and a culture of evaluation is not firmly established. As a result, the following 8 “wicked problems” currently plague career/employment services: 

  1. Clients present with multiple, complex strengths and needs, but these are not consistently assessed. As a result, the constellation of client needs is not understood or used to guide and inform service delivery.    
  2. Most reporting to funders is limited to whether a client is employed or in training. This is flawed on so many levels. Frontline services are held accountable for factors beyond their control and the impact of services – how services address complex client needs and help to move people toward stronger community and labour market attachment – remains unknown.  
  3. The inadequate data that is reported seems to “go into the ether, never to be seen or heard from again”. Clients, frontline staff, agencies, service delivery networks and funders all need better data.  
  4. Reporting systems are not integrated into practice. Professionals meet with clients and then, separately need to find time to enter data related to that meeting. As a result, entering data for funders is an unrewarding burden. 
  5. Evaluation often focuses on deficits, while practice is more often grounded in strength-based models. 
  6. Not surprisingly, frontline services tend to despise the data collection tools they are mandated to use. As a result, the fidelity of use and quality of data suffers.  
  7. Career/employment services face chronic challenges in accessing training, professional development and evidence-based tools and resources.  
  8. As a result, the ecosystem across Canada lacks the common framework, language, standards, supports and capacity needed to ensure rigorous employability assessment, responsive services, quality assurance and accountability. 

 These challenges are not unique to Canada; they are seen around the globe. As long as the employability strengths and needs of service recipients are not assessed and the full impact of career/employment services is not understood, service delivery will be based on best guesses and funding will always be fragile. 

Beginning in 2011, the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) set out to address these 8 “wicked problems”. In partnership with career/employment agencies working with diverse clients across Canada, CCDF and its technical partner, ARMS Online, worked to build a new and fundamentally different approach to employability assessment, data collection, accountability and quality service assurance. The result is PRIME, an employability assessment tool built with practitioners to honour the reality of their clients and the impact of their servicesCombining rigorous research with frontline wisdom, PRIME is a robust online tool that uses the Employability Dimensions framework and integrates a range of powerful indicators of health and well-being, social integration and labour market attachment. Behind the curtain, PRIME employs a powerful database to enable robust reporting and analysis.  

  • PRIME™ uses a common assessment platform to assess client strengths/needs at entry to service, track incremental, meaningful client changes over the course of receiving services and capture pre-post changes at exit to create a data story of the full client journey and the impact of services. 
  • It is used collaboratively with clients (avoiding the need to enter data separate from client meetings). Built with the frontlines, it mirrors and guides quality service and includes embedded coaching, cues, resources and tools tailored to specific client needs. 
  • PRIME™ provides governments, supervisors, frontline workers and clients with meaningful data. 
  • It is grounded in almost 10 years of evidence-based research, rigorous data analysis and the experience and wisdom of frontline professionals and their clientele. 

PRIME™ is now in use across Canada and research continues in partnership with frontline agencies to ensure a cycle of continuous improvement and innovation informs its content, integrated supports and reporting capacity. The ongoing goal of PRIME™ is to transform public career/employment services through the power of meaningful accountability that tracks and reports the full impact of these vital and essential services.  

 For more information on PRIME™ or to book a PRIME™ demo, contact Annika Laale at a.laale@ccdf.ca