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Case study: CA Employment Training Panel (ETP) - Application Process Evaluation

Evaluate Employment Training Panel’s application process for potential improvements using Human-Centered Design.

The Employment Training Panel (ETP) provides funding to employers to assist in upgrading the skills of their workers through training that leads to good paying, long-term jobs. ETP was created in 1982 by the California State Legislature and is funded by California employers through a special payroll tax. ETP sought a partner who could help evaluate its application process for greater transparency, equity and ease for applicants using human-centered design (HCD), as well as capacity building for HCD being used across the organization.

Design Research

Project Team


CivicMakers conducted a robust discovery phase where we sought input from a wide range of invested stakeholders on their experiences with ETP’s application process. These stakeholders included internal ETP representatives—Regional Office Staff, Regional Office Managers, Executive Leadership, and Panel Members, who represent the decision making body. We also engaged stakeholders external to ETP, such as applicants themselves and consultants who assist applicants in submission of their proposals. Our goal was to map external experiences with internal procedures to better understand pain points, constraints, and opportunities for what might be improved for the overall process.

We assembled an internal team made up of representatives from various levels, responsibilities, tenures and experiences across the organization, which we called our ‘Design Team.’ This group of 10 internal stakeholders followed us alongside the entire design process, first helping to design an interview protocol that could be used in empathy interviews. A total of 33 stakeholder interviews were conducted to gain insights for process improvements.


Through the discovery and data synthesis process we learned that all stakeholder groups maintained a desire to improve the process for greater transparency, efficiency and equity. These insights confirmed there was an opportunity to improve transparency for both applicants and many ETP staff on where an application is in the process, particularly around how much time it will take for an application to be approved. This is mainly due to the legacy process that had been in place for decades, with some changes to the application process having been made in the last few years during the transition to an online system. There were also many opportunities unearthed for greater collaboration, coordination and knowledge sharing among staff working closely with applicants, up to the decision making body itself. This can be addressed by leveraging existing priority setting activities, such as a yearly strategic planning process.

Awareness of ETP’s critical contributions to workforce development, training, and employment across the state of California can also be improved as many applicants became aware of ETP through word of mouth. The CivicMakers team learned the value of bringing an internal team alongside in the work to build greater capacity for HCD in the organization itself, as well as affirmed what we already knew: creative ideas exist at all levels of the organization. This affirmation came by way of an in-person ideation session that surfaced 250 ideas for improvement!


CivicMakers along with ETP’s internal Design team put forth 18 prioritized ideas for implementation. These ideas were prototyped and vetted with ETP’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and included an implementation plan for internal departments to make actionable. Five low-fidelity prototypes for improvement were built and presented to the ETP Panel. The culminating deliverable was a Human-Centered Implementation Plan for all prioritized ideas that staff are actively working to move forward. This project represents one of our greatest indicators of impact: that the work continues beyond our formal engagement!

“The CivicMakers Team worked with us in partnership to start embedding human-centered design principles into the skills and mindsets of our organization. Their ‘learn-by-doing’ approach has created greater internal competencies in HCD, and our people have enjoyed learning and applying the process.”

Jaime Gutierrez Chief Deputy Director, Employment Training Panel (ETP)