EO Award Nomination Mississippi

Mississippi EO Award Nomination: Jaqueline Turner/Hub "No Wrong Door" database

Contact Information of Individual Submitting Nomination

Nominator: Randy Langley, State EO Officer

Email Address: rlangley@mdes.ms.gov

Agency Name: Mississippi Dept of Employment Security



Jaqueline Turner/Hub "No Wrong Door" database

When the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was enacted in 2014, Mississippi, like many other states, still struggled with a territorial approach to agency operations. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) had its own buildings, staff, operations and programs; similarly, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), the Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB) and the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitative Services (MDRS) also had an array of buildings, staff, operations and programs. Each agency was aware of some services offered by the other agencies, and sometimes, even referred customers to other agencies. We were classic big government—bulky, self-centered and rife with redundancy. The unintended consequence of massive bureaucracy was an institutional blindness to the variety of needs of our job seekers. While we focused on programs, building maintenance and staffing concerns, the typical job seekers had to navigate the complexity of our organizations. They were often embarrassed when forced to apply for employment. They would typically discover their lack of credentials, lack of child-care and transportation arrangements made employment an almost unreachable goal. With added barriers of racial discrimination, language difficulties, age factors and disability status, the challenge became almost impossible for the very people most adversely impacted by traditional institutional bureaucracy.

This bureaucratic barrier was widely acknowledged during the writing of the Mississippi 2015 WIOA Plan (revised in 2018), the first plan of its kind approved by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2015. Where WIOA regulations directed core partners to work together, the Mississippi State Plan highlighted Mississippi’s determination not only to comply with the regulations, but also to embrace the cooperative effort in a way that was unprecedented in Mississippi state government. The framers of the WIOA state plan realized that interfacing the core partners and streamlining the process was just the beginning. All the interfacing and streamlining in the world would not work unless we found a way to change the job search process for the job seekers themselves. We needed to be able to identify at the initial interview if a person had barriers to employment and address those barriers at the beginning of the job search. Mississippi’s solution, as described in the WIOA Plan of 2015 and revised in 2018, was a “No Wrong Door” Hub. (See Attachment 1)

Describe the nominee's significant contributions towards the understanding and achievement of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination for all employees and customers. Response (400 word limit).

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security has long been committed to equal opportunity for all citizens of Mississippi. Our former Executive Director, Les Range, later the Department of Labor’s Region 3 Regional Administrator, was an ardent advocate for minority job seekers. His successor, Mark Henry our past Executive Director and former NASWA President, actually devoted a week to Equal Opportunity training with the Civil Rights Center staff along with the NASWA Equal Opportunity Committee in December 2016. The ongoing commitment to equal opportunity at MDES, however, has come from Jacqueline Turner, our current Executive Director. Jackie served as the agency comptroller, then the Chief Financial Officer and later Chief Operations Officer under both Mr. Range and Mr. Henry. She was an integral part of the committee that wrote the Mississippi WIOA State Plan in 2015. She was a part of the push to implement the Smart Start program, and she has been the direct overseer of the State-level Equal Opportunity Officer and EO Department for over three years. Jacqueline Turner has been the one person who has maintained unbroken, uninterrupted support for equal opportunity for all job seekers in general and for the Hub data system in particular.

The attachments spell out the details of the Smart Start Program and its utilization of the “no wrong door” approach to intake. MDES has spent over ten years developing a data system to serve the job seeking community. The system at MDES is MSWorks, and it unifies information for all the WIOA programs administered by MDES. Additionally, MDES has been at the forefront of developing the central intake hub that allows all WIOA core partners to share intake information so that a job seeker with a disability is automatically entered into the state Rehabilitative Services system and offered services while still talking to his job counselor. Similarly, a TANF applicant is automatically entered into the MDES job search database while she is speaking with her TANF counselor. (See attachment 2-3.)

While this fluid process sounds like a technological marvel, the real marvel has been Jacqueline Turner’s continuous efforts to create trust among partner executives. Executive directors rarely trust new technology; they trust individuals who have demonstrated honesty and consistency in their words and actions. While other states have struggled to sell administrators on technology, Jackie’s relationships with partner administrators has made our technological transition smooth and seamless.

Provide a statement of results, accomplishments, impacts, and any other appropriate information that demonstrates why the nominee's efforts described in question #1 were an exceptional contribution. Response (400 word limit).

The result of Jackie’s behind-the-scenes interagency work is a model for other states seeking to interface their agency service functions. Jackie’s work on the state plan resulted in the first state WIOA plan approved by the DOL. The Hub database that interfaced intake for all core partners was launched during Jackie’s watch. A two-day training conference introduced the intake Hub to WIOA staff in every partner agency. Comprehensive American Job Centers in every workforce area have allowed citizens to look for work, apply for TANF, sign up for Rehabilitative Services, and enroll in training all in one visit at one location. Additionally Mississippi has created entry points in every TANF service location as well as in numerous Vocational Rehabilitation service locations. Where we once had forty-five local offices to offer employment services, we now have over three hundred entry points into the Hub, making employment services available to the widest possible audience, regardless of economic barrier, racial barrier, language barrier or disability barrier. (Attachment 4)

Had Jackie not publicly enlisted statewide support for the interfacing technology for this “no wrong door” approach to services, the WIOA program in Mississippi might well have become just another layer of bureaucracy and an annual flurry of reports. Instead, WIOA in Mississippi is a vibrant, flourishing system. Job Centers look like high-end employment services. Minority job seekers who once hesitated to seek services now share hundreds of stories expressing their gratitude at finding employment and gratitude about how well they were treated along their path to meaningful work. Staff from different agencies share a common break room and often discover a synergy service delivery because they are so closely connected, both technologically and physically. The Hub interfacing database is a technological marvel. However, technology alone will not solve the challenge of unemployment. Successful technology requires a prime advocate, an administrator committed to diversity and inclusion, a tireless advocate like Mississippi’s own Jacqueline Turner to breathe life into the technology. Only a person will transform programs into compassion.


Examples of work 

MS - No Wrong Door Policy 2020.pdf (92.5KB)
MS - Smart Start Career Pathway 2 2020.pdf (159.2KB)
MS - SUCCESS STORY 2020.pdf (121.6KB)
MS - Statement of Approval 2020.pdf (51.5KB)