Increasing youth unemployment in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts is a rising issue within the community. Youths ages 16-24 make up a large percentage of the currently unemployed population in the city. The Worcester Community Action Council (WCAC) plays a large role in many of these youth’s lives including job readiness training, skill training, computer training, job placement assistance, multiple forms of counselling, and much more. Although they are successful in helping the youth, they want to be able to analyze data to know exactly how successful their programs really are to make changes to benefit the youth even more. To be able to improve their programs, the WCAC needs a database that will allow them to track data on youths as they reach milestones within the program and stay connected with the youth once they age out of their programs. This need for a database led to a partnership with WPI’s Worcester Community Project Center (WCPC) to find the best ways to move forward in developing a database that will help them in the long run.
Mission, Methods, and Objectives
The goal of this project was to develop a work plan for the WCAC to implement a tracking database and online data. For project objectives we:
- Developed an understanding of how the WCAC and Task Force operates as a whole and how they collect data from the youths.
- Identified the best course of action to help WCAC collate data so that they can address the needs of unemployed youth in the City of Worcester.
- Created a detailed work plan and a data management map (in the form of two infographics) for implementing a database that tracks youth career pathways, including employment history and life skill achievements, and an interactive platform/website for youth and youth advocates to access job opportunities.
- Suggest a potential work plan to continue data collection after the youth graduate from the WCAC program.
We completed these objectives through semi-structured interviews with the WCAC, Worcester Youth Task Force, database users and developers, community action councils around the northeast region, and alumni/youth participants of the WCAC programs.
Results and Findings
After analyzing the interview summaries of the semi-structured interviews conducted, we found the following:
Finding 1: A collaborative tracking database solves miscommunication between the Worcester Youths Task Force and the Youth.
Finding 2: The Data Collection Milestones of the WCAC and their subsections: Outreach.
Finding 3: The Data Collection Milestones of the WCAC and their subsections: Enrollment.
Finding 4: The Data Collection Milestones of the WCAC and their subsections: Program Participation
Finding 5: The Data Collection Milestones of the WCAC and their subsections: Outcome or Achievement.
Finding 6: Databases can be developed to the needs of the WCAC.
Finding 7: The tracking database needs to be scalable across multiple organizations.
Finding 8: Creating a database with a professional company comes at a price.
Finding 9: New touchpoints were found through intake form examination.
For finding 1, we discovered that one of the main difficulties for the Task Force was miscommunication with the youth, and that an online database would be an efficient way to fix it. Findings 2 through 5 represent the data collection milestones that the WCAC uses when putting Youth through their programs. These are places where data can be collected and placed in a database in order to track youth progress. Finding 6 is that the needs of the WCAC can be met through a tracking database. Finding 7 represents the need for the tracking database to be able to expand across organization through the Worcester Youth Task Force after the initial implementation into the WCAC. Finding 8 explains that the cost of creating a database using a professional company comes with heavy upfront costs, along with monthly fees thereafter. Lastly, we found through examining WCAC intake forms that there are more data collection touchpoints for tracking information about the Youth participants.
Based on our findings we were able to develop two different recommendations regarding the implementation of a database for the WCAC.
Recommendation 1: Include Outreach Steps in Intake Form
Recommendation 2: Add “Other Programs” in Enrollment Phase
Recommendation 3: Add Participate in LinkedIn/Alumni Outreach Program
Recommendation 4: Add 1-5 Year Outcome Check In
Recommendation 5: Hire a database developer to create a tracking database.
Recommendation 6: WPI and WCAC work together to develop another WPI project team involving senior computer science or data science students to develop a database.
Our first recommendation is for the WCAC to include outreach steps on their youth intake forms, in order to gain a better understanding of where youth are coming from and where they are going after their programs. Our second recommendation would be to verify the additional programs that each youth has already been a part of within the Task Force during the Enrollment phase to have a better understanding of youth involvement. Third, we recommended the addition of a program that helps youth members set up and learn to use LinkedIn in order to better expand the WCAC’s alumni reach. Our fourth recommendation is for the WCAC to add a one to five year check-in for alumni that have completed their program in order to track their program effectiveness. For recommendation 5, we suggested three different database developers for the WCAC to choose from. Each developer has their listed positives and negatives, cost of the services, and the past organizations that they have worked with. This recommendation also discusses the need for a grant to cover the costs of the database implementation. For recommendation 6 we suggested that the WCAC partners with WPI again for the development of the tracking database. All seniors are required to complete a Major Qualifying Project, or MQP, prior to graduation. This project would be completed by a Computer science or data science major qualifying team over a five to seven-month period or three terms.