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Collaborations Between the Workforce Investment System and Public Libraries: Project Compass Releases Year Two Project Report
Feb 6, 2013

The Employment and Training Administration released Training and Employment Notice 50-09 -- Encouraging Partnerships between the Workforce Investment System and Public Libraries to Meet Career and Employment Needs  -- in June 2010.  This TEN announced a partnership between ETA and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) encouraging collaborations between the workforce investment system and public libraries aimed at improving the quality and quantity of employment and training services to job seekers and unemployed individuals.

Through two grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, WebJunction and the State Library of North Carolina (SLNC) launched Project Compass in support of public libraries’ efforts to meet the urgent and growing needs of communities impacted by the economic downturn.

  • In the first year, the project brought state library representatives together to consider how they can support state-wide workforce recovery.

  • The follow-on grant for year two delivered training and curriculum materials to library staff on the frontlines of responding to the needs of the un- and under-employed.
The Project Compass team has recently released the Year Two Project Report  -- Project Compass Lights a Path to Workforce Recovery.

Some excerpts:

The Project Compass team coordinated, facilitated and delivered workshops for workforce recovery that reached across the nation. The approach was tailored to meet the needs and capacity of each state.

1. In-Person Workshops in Critical Areas

By analyzing chronic (14-month) high unemployment rates by state, the percentage of high-unemployment counties within those states, and the number of library systems and staff within those counties, the Project Compass team identified 11 “target” states to receive the highest concentration of local, face-to-face workforce recovery workshops for library staff: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee. Experienced library trainers in each of the target states worked with project staff to refine the curriculum developed by the Project Compass team, customize the content to meet local needs, and coordinate and deliver in-person workshops across their states. Fifty-four of these workshops were delivered to 1,242 library staff. Just over half (52%) of participants were from small or rural libraries (population size 1-24,999); 46% were from larger libraries (population size 25,000 or more).

In-Person Workshops Across the U.S.

Project Compass staff organized in-person workshops for library staff in 38 states (including the District of Columbia) outside of the target group; 703 library staff attended these sessions.

Online Workshops

In times of reduced staffing, online workshops are often the most accessible way for frontline staff to receive training. To extend its reach even further, Project Compass adapted the curriculum for two online workshops, each blending a live “kick-off” webinar with four weeks of facilitated, asynchronous assignments and discussions. The first online workshop - Libraries at the Core of Workforce Recovery - addressed core services and the specific needs of job seekers. The second online workshop - Libraries Supporting Small Business and Financial Health - expanded the notion of workforce recovery to consider the needs of entrepreneurs and to boost patrons’ personal financial skills. Public library staff from 22 states attended, with 133 participants in the first workshop and 206 in the second. The discussion activity from both workshops indicated a high level of virtual engagement, with a total of 52 topics, 542 responses and 16,146 views of the topics.

Many workshops included short presentations or panel discussions with representatives from local libraries and workforce or other community agencies. Not only did they add the value of community-specific perspectives, the presentations broke up the intensity of the pathway discussions.