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O*NET In Action:  Washington

"ORCA - The Occupational Researcher's Computer Assistant"

State of Washington/Employment Security Department and the Washington State Occupational Information Coordinating Committee


The State of Washington, Employment Security Department (ESD) and the Washington State Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, developed ORCA, the Occupational Researcher's Computer Assistant, an easy to use computer application. ORCA is a tool that adds value to career exploration through direct access to new occupational information. ORCA is a career resource to use as a starting point for job searching, career exploration and using occupational information.

ORCA was designed to help Washington State job seekers expedite informed career decision making. The ORCA software provides a self-assessment tool to help clients pinpoint personal work values and occupations for which they are best suited. Specifically, a job seeker can refine their personal career choices and print out a complete career development plan.

ORCA provides the user several ways to find specific occupations for which they may be searching. The system includes Search, Best Match, Compare and Profile components. A workbook that accompanies the software application contains three scenarios about changing careers, and shows how to use the ORCA application in various situations.

Occupational information featured in ORCA was extracted from O*NET. In addition, State labor market information is used to make the application relevant to users in Washington.

ORCA was created based on OSCAR, a Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, O*NET pilot project developed by the Texas Occupational Information Coordinating Committee. OSCAR was developed to help experienced workers who, due to downsizing, plant closures or layoffs, need to transfer their skills to other professions or careers can do so.

How is O*NET being used?

O*NET occupational information (knowledge, skills, abilities, educational levels and work values) is used as well as the 1,122 O*NET occupational titles. In addition, crosswalks from O*NET to other occupational coding systems such as DOT, Military, Census, SOC, and CIP, are offered. The results of the Work Importance Locator assessment links to the Work Values in O*NET making it possible to identify occupations that have similar work values to those indicated in the assessment.

By combining an existing FoxPro software program with the O*NET database supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor, the ORCA Team was able to deploy the new system at minimal cost, in record time. The project, which began in July 1998 was completed in only six months and ready for distribution by January 1999.

Who is your target population?

  • job seekers
  • career changers
  • dislocated workers
  • students

What kind of results is O*NET helping you to achieve?

Clearly, the program-friendly killer whale icon is fun to use, fast and informative. Sixty-eight percent of users surveyed found ORCA very useful and fifty-seven percent used ORCA to secure employment or make career decisions. Twenty percent of survey respondents said ORCA played an integral part in securing their employment. By tapping into O*NET demonstration funding and combining it with existing programs, the ORCA team was very prudent -- saving the State over $150,000 in development costs. Amazingly, the overall costs for producing and distributing 1,000 compact disks were less than $10,000.

In summary, ORCA improved customer satisfaction with job search and re-employment, saved staff time by empowering self-service applications, and moved the Washington ESD closer to the strategic destinations with State and national benchmarks.

ORCA is getting rave reviews, as evident from these observations taken from evaluations at ORCA training sessions.

From a Job Developer. . . "This is a great addition to the tools to help assist me in developing employment options for customers."

From a Counselor. . . "This is a great method to encourage clients to participate in their own process while producing useful decision making information. We will use it with our own clients. Thanks!

From a Teacher. . . "Good package, best that I've seen."

What are the related program initiatives?

  • One-stop career centers
  • dislocated workers

Is your product, program or service available for others to use?

Yes. To order a copy of ORCA, please contact Michael J. Paris, Executive Director, SOICC at:
P.O. Box 9046, Olympia, WA 98507-9046. Tele: 360-438-4803. Fax: 360-438-3215. E-mail:

What other strategies make your product, program or service successful?

ORCA used an assessment tool, the Work Importance Locator, that links to O*NET information. In addition, Washington State used its own LMI to link to O*NET information and make it more relevant to users. Also ORCA uses a hot link to America's Job Bank allowing users to search for job openings on the Internet.

ORCA was distributed by the State of Washington, Employment Security Department to Workforce Development Professionals in the State. Along with a copy of ORCA, a satisfaction survey was included that asked for feedback from these professionals. To date, feedback from the questionnaires indicates that ORCA is hitting the mark with users.

Do you have other pertinent information?

For additional career and labor market information see the following web sites:

State of Washington/Employment Security Department and the Washington State Occupational Information Coordinating Committee won First Place in the 1999 Labor Market Information Awards in the category of Automation/Electronic-Innovative Application of Electronic Delivery for the application, ORCA, The Occupational Researcher's Computer Assistant.

ORCA was nominated for the Governor's Service and Quality Improvement Award in Washington State. Due to this nomination, ORCA will be featured in Governing for Results, the Governor's quarterly report on quality.

Contact information.

Michael J. Paris, Executive Director
P.O. Box 9046
Olympia, WA 98507-9046
Tele: 360-438-4803
Fax: 360-438-3215

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