Q&A with Felix Schapiro, Workforce Policy Analyst for the Commonwealth of Virginia

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December 18, 2019

Q&A with Felix Schapiro, Workforce Policy Analyst for the Commonwealth of Virginia

With mentors like Robert Egger, founder of DC Central Kitchen as his first boss, it’s no surprise that Felix Schapiro chose the path of public service. We recently sat down to learn more about the great work that Felix is doing for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Workforce Policy Analyst in the Office of Governor Ralph Northam.

A native of Richmond, Va., Felix knew he wanted to give back to his community. He is both passionate and public about his aspirations for Virginia: that it continues to become more equitable and economically diverse. Here’s what we learned about the innovative work he is doing for Virginia.

Qlarion: As a Workforce Policy Analyst for the Commonwealth of Virginia, what are you working on that will ensure equity and economic growth for the state?

Felix Schapiro: A primary focus of my work has been the development of the Workforce Data Trust and Referral Portal. These tools enable data sharing among 14 program partners, helping ensure unemployed, underemployed, and disabled Virginians can access the services they need to succeed. The data trust allows networks of organizations to securely and responsibly share data and collaborate, surfacing new opportunities for Virginia citizens.

Q: What is the goal of this initiative?

FS: The goal of the Workforce Data Trust and Referral Portal is to connect the regional, state, and federal programs that comprise the Commonwealth’s workforce development system. Our new technology ecosystem will deliver increased operational efficiency and improved analytic capabilities, allowing us to more effectively provide the skills, training, and opportunities Virginians need to thrive in the 21st century economy. Our team collaborates closely with Virginia’s labor and business communities to ensure our data is accurate and useful for job seekers and employers alike.

Q: What makes this system different?

FS: The workforce data trust and referral portal are shared technology assets. Each participating agency maintains ownership of the data they contribute, but all partners are able to leverage the functionality of our collaboratively-developed solutions. The shared-services approach has significant operational benefits, including lower upfront development costs and reduced long-term expenses from operations and maintenance. As a result, our system can be affordably used, expanded, and upgraded as operational needs evolve over time.

Q: This is a major state undertaking. Are you working with any partners or champions on this?

FS: I’ve found that strong partnerships are the bedrock on which innovation rests. Our success would not have been possible without the hard work of our vendors, Qlarion, BrightHive, and PAIRIN, as well as our partners across state government. We collaborate daily with the Secretaries of Health and Human Resources, Education, Commerce and Trade to ensure our work results in data-driven policymaking. At this point, the Workforce Data Trust is overseen by a governing board with representation from the Virginia Community College System, the Virginia Employment Commission, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Education, the Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, but we anticipate that list will grow as more organizations are integrated into the system.

Q: Can you please summarize what the big picture is? What will all this data be used for?

FS: Our new system is delivering benefits across the organization. For our staff in the field, it is reducing duplicative, time-consuming data entry and providing real-time insight about our customers’ needs. System leadership has access to a new suite of dashboards, helping them more easily replicate successes in service delivery and identify potential areas of improvement. Job seekers and the general public will soon also be able to leverage performance data to understand how the workforce system serves them and informs their personal investments in training.

Q: What are your thoughts on using data analytics in government?

 FS: Government was never intended to be a profit-making endeavor. We have an obligation to help people in need regardless of cost, but it still makes sense for our system to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. By leveraging the growing power of data analytics, we can make sure every citizen receives the full spectrum of services from which they are likely to benefit, maximizing the workforce system’s impact on individuals and our society as a whole.