We sat down (virtually) with George Taratsas, Director of WIOA Title I Administration and Compliance and Lead Staff for the Virginia Board of Workforce Development, to find out how his team is using PAIRIN’s My Journey product to connect Virginians to critical workforce services during COVID-19 and beyond.
Q: You have a very long title, George! Tell us what you do on a daily basis.
A: My role has two key parts: 1) I oversee the administration and implementation for WIOA Title I, and 2) I coordinate and guide the staff assigned to the state’s Board of Workforce Development to support the Board’s work and provide strategic guidance.
Q: It sounds like you keep busy! What is one of your main goals for the State of Virginia?
A: To Become more effective in the delivery of services to Virginians. We need to strive to reach the population that truly needs services from our workforce development system to help them gain skills, advance those skills and obtain jobs that will set them up for lifelong success and contribute towards a stronger economy.
Q: How long have you been working for the State of Virginia?
A: I’ve been an employee of the state for 22 years! I’ve been in the role of WIOA Administrator for 5 years now, and previously held roles in the Virginia Employment Commission, Virginia Community College System, and as a member of the Workforce Advisor’s Office in Governor Kane’s Administration.
Q: When and why did you decide to partner with PAIRIN?
A: We started working with PAIRIN in December 2018. We were looking for a partner to help us create a technology system that would serve as a single point of entry for Virginians to access workforce services, without having to navigate multiple different systems.
Q: How have you been using the My Journey platform in Virginia?
A: The system creates an easy-to-navigate experience for Virginians, while simultaneously capturing the data for the state’s systems of record on the back end. This has enabled our workforce development decision-makers to gain information about our clients and processes – that we did not previously have access to – that is informing how we can improve our service delivery. We also recently expanded the platform from 3 pilot sites to all 15 regions across the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing us to offer online access to unemployment and other critical workforce services.
Q: Who do you think can benefit from the My Journey platform?
A: First and foremost, individuals that have significant barriers to obtaining a job. It provides access in a way that is equitable since each person walks through the exact same process. And the system personalizes service recommendations based on each individual’s situation, making it easy for them to know exactly what services can best meet their needs.
In addition, businesses and business service teams benefit because they have more reliable information at their fingertips to inform their decisions about the support, training and placement opportunities for their teams.
Q: Since you are so plugged into innovation and market trends, what do you think will be most important in the future of work?
A: It will be highly driven by technology solutions. More and more people are getting comfortable with technology and they are starting to expect to access information and services quickly and easily – right at their fingertips. We have to adjust to the needs and desires of our customers and deliver services in ways that are preferable and convenient for them in order for us to be effective.
Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I grew up in a village in Greece on the side of a mountain. There were no cars, and the only transportation was a bus that came to the village a couple of times per week to deliver supplies. As a child, I was fascinated by the bus, so I wanted to be a bus driver! My experience is an example of how people’s perspectives on job opportunities are often limited to what they see. That’s why it’s so important that we help expose people to career options that they may have never known were in existence. This is how we expand opportunities for everyone, regardless of their background and upbringing.
Q: Name someone who has helped you in your career and education journey.
A: For me, it was my aunt. She brought me to the U.S. and sacrificed a lot of her life to provide opportunities to her family. She taught me the important role that people play in providing opportunities to those that cannot see them on their own. We all need an individual to help show us the way, and she played that role for me.
Q: What’s one of your bucket list goals/dreams?
A: I have two to share with you. First, I hope to one day spend part of my time in Greece working the olive groves and vineyards there. I just love being in nature and doing work where you can easily see and appreciate the results of your efforts. Second, I want to give back by helping children who are trying to find their way in communities that don’t have access to opportunity – especially children who have lost a parent. I have personal experience with this struggle, and I know how important it is for children to have someone to shine the light on their path and show them options.