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R.I., Google Cloud unveil first-in-the-nation virtual career center powered by artificial intelligence

Part of Governor Raimondo’s Back to Work Rhode Island initiative, this advanced job board uses technology to curate skills and eliminate resume readers.

Back to Work RI is a workforce development initiative that was launched in July 2020. On Monday, it unveiled its virtual career center, which was developed by Google Cloud.
Back to Work RI is a workforce development initiative that was launched in July 2020. On Monday, it unveiled its virtual career center, which was developed by Google Cloud.RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND TRAINING/Handout

PROVIDENCE — Say goodbye to sending your resume into the abyss of countless online job boards and application portals.

Back to Work Rhode Island, a state-led workforce development initiative, Monday unveiled a virtual career center platform that will allow Rhode Islanders to not only find employment, but also get matched with career opportunities based on their skills.

Hailed by Google as a first of its kind, the new virtual career center was developed in collaboration with Google Cloud and the Providence nonprofit Research Improving People’s Lives. It will allow job seekers to schedule virtual meetings with career coaches that match their skillsets, connect with prospective employers, participate in training opportunities, and receive help with building effective resumes.

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Rhode Islanders can access the portal at BackToWorkRI.com.

The initiative, which was launched in July 2020 by Governor Gina M. Raimondo, was meant to be a public-private partnership designed to train, support, and hire Rhode Islanders who have been displaced by the pandemic.

Since last March, thousands of Rhode Islanders have lost their jobs, leaving them no other choice but to file for unemployment. Sarah Blusiewicz, assistant director of workforce development for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, said she hopes that after filing for unemployment, Rhode Islanders will be using this career center as a tool to get back to work.

“COVID-19 has left thousands of Rhode Islanders unemployed and searching for new, sustainable careers,” said Blusiewicz. “Our collaboration with Google Cloud has married accessible technology with government innovation to train and connect workers with the resources they need to access in-demand jobs.”

The career center uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to connect the state’s workforce with new career opportunities while using familiar productivity tools within Google Workspace. Some of the features include the AI-powered CareerCompass Rhode Island bot, named “Skipper,” which uses data and machine learning to connect residents with potential new career paths and proven reskilling opportunities.

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The center also integrates video calling via Google Meet, so job seekers can meet with career coaches and use screen-sharing to review and edit resumes and cover letters in real time. Coaches and job seekers are paired based on the coach’s areas of expertise and language fluency. The center is available in English and Spanish now, but can support multiple languages.

“Rhode Island is the first state in the country to use AI/ML and Google Workspace to deploy a job search platform at this scale,” said Mike Daniels, vice president of Global Public Sector at Google Cloud. “We hope that the integrated experience provided by our technology will help job seekers hit the ground running.”

Here are answers to common questions about the platform:

How does applying for a job on this platform help eliminate the implicit bias issues that resume readers have?

According to Blusiewicz, the platform will help push forward resumes for skills-based hiring, unlike other platforms that use technology that eliminates job seekers who don’t use the “correct” keywords. In addition, she said since job seekers can book video conferences with employers and recruiters, the portal encourages hiring managers to go above the “resume reader noise.”

In conversations with local employers, Blusiewicz said, “For years, the theme has been, ‘We have great job seekers that need jobs.’” Great jobs are out there, she said, but traditional job boards with resume readers that searched only for certain terms, coupled with information overload, eliminated good candidates.

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How does the platform ensure that Rhode Islanders are using the center, and not people from other states?

Users are not required to plug in their address, Blusiewicz said, but the idea is to have this portal connected to Rhode Island’s unemployment insurance system.

“As Rhode Islanders are filling out those unemployment claims, we can then direct them to this site as the next step,” she said.

The job I had before the pandemic is probably not going to come back. How will this portal help me?

The machine learning aspect of the center will help someone transition into another field. It will scan your profile and the work history that you upload, and pull administrative data on people who have skills similar to yours. Based on your existing skills, it will help match you to other sectors and positions that are available.

Will similar platforms be available in other states?

Daniels said Google Cloud is in conversations with “a number of states” about developing a similar career center, but he said he believes that this site will pave the way for neighboring states.

“I think we’ve really thought deeply in terms of how we could incorporate the human element and how to make this a different feeling for someone, by curating it for them, instead of them simply going out and pounding the job boards,” said Daniels. “This is coming at exactly the right time.”

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Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.