Development of a district work voucher platform for VDAB
The district work voucher system (‘wijk-werkcheques’ in Dutch) enables individuals facing challenges in accessing the conventional job market to engage in community-based tasks. Compensation is provided through district work vouchers.
When the external issuer of these checks announced they would discontinue the service, VDAB had to quickly find a solution. They enlisted the expertise of ACA Group specialists to create a new platform for the administration and distribution of district work vouchers.
Purpose of the district work vouchers
In 2004, the system of district work vouchers was introduced in Flanders. The program is managed by the Public Employment Service of Flanders (VDAB) and aims to provide opportunities for individuals who face difficulty accessing the regular job market to work in their local communities. This can include tasks ranging from garden maintenance and household chores to administrative support in local organizations. The tasks are diverse and focus on enhancing community livability. By performing these tasks, the district workers can improve certain skills that they can later apply in the regular job market.
How do the district work vouchers work?
Employers such as local community organizations, local governments, non-profit organizations, and individuals can hire district workers using district work vouchers. Employers purchase these vouchers from an accredited service voucher company and pay the district workers with these vouchers. District workers receive compensation for their work, which is partially paid with district work vouchers and partially by the VDAB.
Why did VDAB need help?
Previously, Edenred used to issue the district work vouchers. However, in 2022, when Edenred announced its intention to discontinue this service, VDAB needed a prompt solution. The quest for a new external partner to assume Edenred's role didn't yield results quickly. Consequently, VDAB decided to manage the issuance of district work vouchers internally.
To accomplish this, a new application had to be swiftly developed to streamline the management and purchase of the vouchers. Despite having a comprehensive in-house team of software specialists, VDAB was fully engaged with roadmap projects until 2025. Hence, they sought assistance from an external partner.
ACA Group as external partner
Even before the start of this project, some ACA consultants were already working in VDAB's software teams, establishing a prior connection. ACA then provided a quote that convinced VDAB.
Dual Solution: District Voucher Portal and Support Platform
In collaboration with VDAB specialists, ACA Group developed a portal where employers can purchase and manage electronic district work vouchers, as well as pay district workers. Additionally, we created a support platform for VDAB staff, providing comprehensive data and analyses on employers and district workers, including a service desk section for user assistance.
In the past, Edenred issued both electronic and paper vouchers. However, the decision has now been made to exclusively use electronic vouchers, which are more efficient and environmentally friendly.
How did the project unfold?
In November 2022, we kicked off the development project for the new application. The initial two months were all about starting up, with analysts and architects busy crafting a solid backlog. As we rolled into January to June 2023, our team of developers was in full swing. This period marked the creation of a sleek new application, seamlessly blending into the established technological framework. There was already a setup for handling internal voucher management. Leveraging the existing technical API, complete with the essential check IDs and identifiers, provided a sturdy foundation for the seamless integration of the new application.
The final delivery of the application and, consequently, the commencement of issuing the new district work vouchers was scheduled for the end of 2023. Until then, Edenred continued to support the old vouchers.
Which technology stack was used?
For the development of the application, Spring Boot, Hibernate, and Jackson were employed for the backend. Angular was used for the frontend. Additionally, some upgrades were implemented as the existing platform had been in use for several years.
Part of the challenge was making the right architectural domain modeling choices. These choices are highly service-based, aiming to create a comprehensive domain model. Our objective was to ensure that the new application adheres to the best practices of modern domain-driven design, making the solution future-proof in the long term.
The project team
The project team consisted of an internal VDAB team leader, three analysts, two of whom were from ACA, 4 junior developers, and 2 senior developers from ACA. Additionally, two internal developers from VDAB were part of the team, complemented by others responsible for architecture, QA, and so on.
Initially, the project team was formed as a temporary unit. However, due to the increasing workload within the internal VDAB team and the demonstrated value of ACA consultants, several ACA members continue to be part of the permanent software team within VDAB, even after the completion of this project, to assist with other software challenges.
The collaboration between VDAB and ACA Group for the development of the application for district work vouchers has been a resounding success. Moreover, it extends beyond this singular project; it is the continuation of a long-term partnership based on mutual trust and professional synergy.
The joint projects that will follow in the future promise further enhancement of VDAB's service delivery and internal operations. It will undoubtedly contribute to the success of VDAB in supporting job seekers in Flanders.
With the help of the ACA team, VDAB managed to take over the issuing of district work vouchers and the processing of the necessary payments and disbursements from an external issuing company and to internalize them against a strict deadline.— Tom Van Heddegem, Manager Software Factory - Application Make at VDAB
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