Putting our Youth to Work – Faster

By Andrew Kleine, City Budget Director

In the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death and civil unrest that followed, attention quickly turned to the question of how we can expand opportunities for Baltimore’s youth.  One thing that everyone agrees on is that a summer job gives young people what they need to succeed: new skills, a work ethic, a network, and a resume.  

Last year, the city’s YouthWorks summer jobs program received 8,000 applicants for 5,000 jobs.  Thanks to the many businesses, non-profits and others who answered the Mayor’s call, every applicant was offered a job.  

Making a summer job a rewarding experience begins with the YouthWorks application process.  This process starts with filling out a form online.  The next step is to bring copies of a birth certificate, Social Security card, photo ID, school record, proof of income, and work permit to the War Memorial Building and sit for an in-person interview.  

The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED), which runs the YouthWorks program, found that getting young people through the paperwork and interview process at the War Memorial Building was taking up to 90 minutes when it should take only half an hour.  To figure out how to make the process faster, MOED sent two employees to Lean Government training.

Lean Government is a method for finding and eliminating waste in a business process – which could be anything from inspecting restaurants to billing taxpayers to paving streets.  The City is using Lean Government to improve customer service, boost employee morale, and get better results.  

The two MOED employees, Joe Smith and Evelyn Nicholson, are among nearly 1,000 who have been trained in Lean Government thinking since last November.  They applied Lean Government thinking to the YouthWorks application process as their project for the Intermediate Lean Training Course.

When they broke down the application process to understand where time was being wasted, they found that the root cause of delays is that many youth show up for on-site registration ill-prepared – they lack the required paperwork, the paperwork has errors, they have originals but not copies, etc.  Digging deeper, they discovered that youth are rushing through the online pre-registration and not reading or understanding the online instructions about what they need to do to be ready for on-site registration.

Joe and Evelyn came up with several “countermeasures” to make the process work better.  The recommendations included making the online experience more visual, including a video and flashing messages, and providing a checklist. The checklist would be printed out, along with the completed application, prior to attending the on-site registration.  For the registration site, they proposed to reconfigure staff locations to move applicants more quickly through the verification stage, add/improve signage, and change “traffic flow” to alleviate bottlenecks.  Next year’s budget includes funding for scanners to eliminate one of the biggest time-wasters of all – the lines at the copy machines.

While many of the “countermeasures” are related to the online pre-registration process and have a price tag, one of the main Lean concepts is ‘what can we do (for little or no cost) now.’ With that in mind, several countermeasures were implemented this year, including printing the checklist on the reverse side of the number card that each registrant receives during the on-site registration.  This helped ensure that youth had all their materials while their parent/guardian was still available at the registration drop off point and reminded them to obtain any necessary copies while they waited for their number to be called.  Traffic flow was also adjusted and steps were taken to ensure that registrants could hear their number when it was called.  These seemingly small steps noticeably reduced wait time and increased registration efficiency.   

Joe and Evelyn see Lean as an on-going process.  They tell me that many of the proposed recommendations will be incrementally implemented, reviewed, and tweaked as necessary.  Joe and Evelyn’s efforts are just one example of a growing movement within city government to “straighten the pipes” of services that are supposed to help citizen customers but instead drive them crazy.  

BBMR offers three levels of Lean Government Training free to City employees.

Level Hours Description
Beginner 3.5 Get acquainted with Lean philosophy, strategies, and examples of practical applications.
Intermediate 16 Take a deeper dive into the different Lean tools. This course includes 16 hours of classroom learning, as well as the completion of an A3 project in your workplace. Past projects include: Summer YouthWorks Job Registration in MOED and Urgent Vendor Invoice Payments in DGS. Completion of beginner training is required.
Advanced 32 Train to become a certified Lean facilitator. This course includes 32 hours of classroom preparation, as well as observation and co-facilitation of several Lean events. Completion of beginner and intermediate training is required.

Dates are filling up quick, so visit the following link to sign-up for courses through August 2016: 


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