Late last month, creative people from across Virginia brainstormed to solve the state's workforce challenges in the Datathon 2016: Governor's Workforce Innovation Challenge. And on Sept. 7, two winning teams were selected.
The first place winner, selected by a panel of judges, was a team from Chesterfield County that developed the Virginia Employment Research Assistant, a job search and industry research tool. The second place winner, which was selected by a crowd of more than 400 event attendees, was the Virginia Department of Transportation, which developed Get Workin' VA, a workforce data visualization tool. In addition to prizes, the selected teams win an opportunity to see their ideas come to life and improve the workforce in Virginia.
The datathon, which was also held last year, exceeded expectations, said Anthony Fung, Virginia's deputy secretary of technology.
"Lots of teams from different backgrounds came together; we had 16 teams participate and we’d only been looking for 10, so we got full participation," Fung said. "There was a nice diversity of high-school students, college students, private-sector companies and public servants. It was really an amazing opportunity and experience."
Following the theme of the event, participants were confronted with questions and challenges surrounding job-seekers and hiring businesses, such as, "What are the real workforce needs of employers? Are those needs adequately reflected in job postings? What are the skills required of jobs? How do those skills align to available training and curricula at Virginia’s community colleges? What are the historical patterns for jobs?"
Events like this one are useful, Fung said, because they expand government's search for solutions.
"I think the underlying part of this competition is thinking about how government can really play an additional role in terms of empowering citizens and civic innovators to leverage open data to solve real-world challenges," he said. "… It’s not just funding, it’s not starting up new programs, but really the power of open data to be able to help solve challenges like this."
The datathon was sponsored and supported by the Library of Virginia, the Center for Innovative Technology, the Discover Analytics Center, George Mason University, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Center for Open Science, and the Council on Virginia's Future. And these partnerships for such events are as important as the data being examined, Fung said.
"I think that model would be useful to explore for other states and other localities," he added. "It’s not just the open data — it’s the public-private partnerships, it’s the usage of your universities to help with the process to solve challenges and really being able to use your assets."
More information on the winners is scheduled to be posted on the event website later this month.