A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Get Smart.  Get Hired.

by Jaime Prothro | Customer Experience Manager Pierce County Library -- jprothro@piercecountylibrary.org on March 8, 2016

If you’re a job seeker, new to computers, or someone who’s interested in being more proficient with technology, you’ll find several options for you at your local library.  In the past year, Pierce County (Washington) Library System has positioned itself within the county as a convenient and customer-oriented service to connect residents to training, employment services, and certification options.

A recent report by Workforce Central identifies the growth potential of tech jobs and a significant skills gap among residents to fill these jobs.   Located just south of Seattle, the Tacoma/Pierce County area is an affordable option for tech businesses and there is great synergy happening to bring jobs to the area.  Additionally, Joint Base Lewis McChord is out-processing large numbers of soldiers. This reality, coupled with a higher than average unemployment rate, created an opportunity for the library to take a look at current programs and training and utilize its strength as a community connector to bring services into rural and unincorporated communities within the county.  Grants from the Washington State Library and a contract with Workforce Central have made it possible to focus on digital literacy and coordinating job services. The variety of training programs reached more than 2000 residents in 2015.

Get Smart is the Library’s technology training initiative that has a wide range of class content that focuses on helping customers use, understand, and create with tech.  The library’s subscriptions to Universal Class, lynda.com, and Microsoft IT Academy have made it possible for residents to learn 24/7.    Recently launching a Book-a-Librarian program, our priority is to help individuals advance their skills and moving librarians out of the “instructor” role and more into one where facilitating learning/next steps can help individuals reach their learning goals.

 Get Hired is a robust job-seeker service that helps build tech skills among participants and gets them connected to employment experts.  WorkSource community outreach staff present workshops that earn participants job search credits and have time in branches to help answer individual questions on a drop-in basis.  Library staff offers two trainings that are endorsed by WorkSource and support digital skills needed in a job-search – Email Communication and the Job Seeker’s Guide to the Cloud.

 Job TRACK (Tech Readiness + Career Kickstart) is a 6-week training that aims to help unemployed individuals improve basic computer skills by building a new resume and cover letter.  Participants check out a Chromebook to serve as their textbook, learn at home using lynda.com, and meet Job Track logoweekly with staff to get help with their questions.  Developed as a way to build relationships and help individuals growth, Job TRACK utilizes Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment to track progress and assessment scores increase on average by 10-12% as a result of the class.

6 Week Geek is a training developed to introduce adult learners to basic coding and web development using Treehouse.  This flipped-classroom training is facilitated by a contractor in partnership with library staff and is a great kicking off point for someone who is interested in pursuing a job in the IT industry.  Area Technical colleges share about programs and financial aid available.

Industry-recognized credentials are a huge draw for job-seekers and transitioning military service members.  Microsoft Certification is available through a partnership with the Washington State Library and participants can earn free MOS and MTA certifications by enrolling in library programs.

The strength in these programs is absolutely derived from the partnerships that have formed. All of the partners leverage space, resources, expertise, connections, and a common desire to see residents succeed in work and life.  The library’s emphasis on digital skills offered in Get Smart and Get Hired has the same goal – to increase computer skills among residents to help them obtain jobs that pay livable wages.