TASK LAUNCHES NEW CALENDAR WEBSITE

Princeton University students create a website to help TASK patrons better manage job searches and time

We all need reminders from time to time – some of us more than others. So, it’s no surprise that one of the trickier jobs for any social service agency is helping its clients manage their appointments, including job interviews. Equally challenging, is getting information about programs and services out to the public, especially to those who need it most. But TASK Scheduler – a website set to launch next month, could help patrons find jobs and knock down those challenges for soup kitchen staff and patrons, alike.

Created in collaboration with TASK and a group of Princeton University computer science students, the site will initially offer a platform where patrons and potential employers can easily find each other. Patrons will be able to see what jobs are available and employers can attract potential candidates with hiring drives. Eventually, the site will be a scheduling hub for various TASK events . The “best part” according to TASK Job Specialist Paulash Banerjee is, when patrons sign up to attend events, the website sends them appointment reminders via text or email alerts.

“Basically, we’re going to have a calendar available to anyone with an internet connection that will show all scheduled TASK events,” said Banerjee who is working with students on the project. “Many of our patrons have difficulty keeping appointments and this could go a long way to help alleviate that barrier to getting jobs and/or the services we offer.”

The students began working on the project in September 2020. The collaboration came about after Banerjee was approached by a university representative – a computer science student looking for a project. Banerjee said the idea just “popped into my head.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could create something that would give them a nudge as to what is coming up,” Banerjee explained. “I proposed it to the rep who brought it to the class and one of the groups decided to take it up.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TASK hosted on-site hiring drives at its main facility on Escher Street,  featuring Amazon, McDonald’s and other employers. Patrons connected with employers in-person and virtually, using the TASK computer lab. That ceased in March when the soup kitchen closed its dining room and suspended all volunteer and non-food related activities to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Linking employers to jobseekers during the pandemic has been particularly challenging, and this new site offers an opportunity to help solve this problem.

“Information is power and getting information to our patrons in a way they are familiar with is important,” said Banerjee. “In our environment getting employers and employees together is difficult enough as it is. This is just a better way of communicating and it includes time management tools our patrons need.”

“Information is power and getting information to our patrons in a way they are familiar with is important,” said Banerjee. “In our environment getting employers and employees together is difficult enough as it is. This is just a better way of communicating and it includes time management tools our patrons need.”

While the finishing touches are being put on the website,  Banerjee and colleague Emily Varga will continue fielding phone calls from patrons who need help finding jobs, writing resumes or filling out job applications. The new system will help make that part of their jobs easier too.

“It’s difficult to keep track and follow up on every patron when we have so many who need our help,” Varga said. “This will help with follow up. They will have a direct way to communicate with the potential employer if they want to.”

As for whether the website will stay live after the pandemic, Banerjee said:

 “Oh, definitely yes, one-hundred percent.”

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