Career Link

Seniors design solution for workforce development board

A computer connection required a human connection.

The Southwest Corner Workforce Development Board provides job placement assistance, education, training and counseling for residents of Washington, Greene and Beaver counties.

It also operates four Pennsylvania CareerLink centers, which match job-seekers and employers.

Visitors at the center check in at CareerLink kiosks, which collect user data that help the board keep pace with workforce dynamics.

“The systems operated individually, and data was stored separately at each center,” explains Jeffrey Nobili ’15, information technology and program manager for the workforce development board.

“This made mining the data for employment trends difficult. It meant four sets of data needed to be compiled, reviewed and delivered for reporting. And it meant the centers may not have been collecting the same information the same way.”

Price tag for an off-the-shelf software solution: $20,000.

But “we want as much of our funding as possible to go toward training,” says Ami Gatts, director of the Southwest Corner board.

A Cal U connection provided the answer — one that allowed the board to keep more funding for services while giving students a real-world, hands-on learning opportunity.

Nobili has a Cal U degree in computer information systems. And he’s a member of the CIS program’s community advisory board — professionals who help to ensure that the program teaches skills that employers need.

When Dr. Gina Boff’s senior-project class needed a business partner, Nobili saw an opportunity to connect.

“In the first semester, students in the capstone course analyze the business problem and design a solution,” Boff explains. “They make decisions about what type of data storage or screens will be used. The next semester they code it, create it, test it and get feedback from the users.

“When you complete this capstone, you should be ready to be hired right out the door, because this is the real world on a smaller scale.”

Before they graduated in May, students Geoffrey Fowler, Brittani Kiger and Stephen Terhorst implemented a Web-based system for Southwest Corner. It uses a single database to provide better reporting and customer service.

Terhorst stayed on with the board part time after graduation to provide software enhancements after the system went live, and to build his resume as he seeks full-time work.

“I knew there would be things I wanted to change once people started using the system,” he says. “I enjoy coding and making websites, and I was able to learn a different coding language for this project. The senior class project is a great opportunity for my degree; it’s very beneficial.”

“I’m thrilled with what he’s done,” Nobili says. “He’s acting just like a developer is supposed to, checking in with me, making sure his work doesn’t affect things down the line, working his way through improvements.”

The board now has a great network. Thanks to a great network.

“My professional relationship with Dr. Boff led to this,” Nobili says. “My connection to a program I loved and incorporated into my professional network has delivered a fantastic project that will be used for years to come.”

—    By Wendy Mackall, communications director atCal U

About the Author