What libraries can do for workforce

This week the Dallas Morning News reported that Texas has lost its distinction as the #1 job-creating stateĀ in the country: http://www.dallasnews.com/business/headlines/20150317-texas-lost-its-spot-as-the-nations-top-job-creator-in-january.ece.

Not only is Texas no longer number one, it’s now number four! And at 20,100 jobs created in January, we are way behind new #1 California with 67,300 jobs created. The cause seems to be logically attributed to the downturn in energy employment. But the downturn in energy was expected to occur at some point, it is only surprising that it has come so suddenly. Economies change and workers that are employed in volatile industries are vulnerable to lay-offs and dislocation. When that happens, workers need to look for new jobs, learn new skills, upshift to meet new expectations, and otherwise cope with the changing environment.

That’s where libraries come in. Everyone knows that the system of workforce solutions offices across the state can help job-seekers connect with employers. But what job-seekers also know is that the public library is there to help them as well, and often when the workforce solutions locations are closed at night and on the weekend. Job-seekers use the computers to fill out job applications, to search for jobs, and to brush up their resumes. Folks also use the library collections–including resources in TexShare databases–to learn new skills, to brush up on interview techniques, to prep for job interviews, and to research companies and industries for potential retraining. Adults attend classes to learn new computer and online skills, learn literacy and English-language skills, and prepare to get their GED. Youth use the library to prepare to one day enter the workforce by accessing materials for study and research, learning technical skills through library STEM and STEAM programs, and attending soft-skills training programs.

These services go on every day in every library large and small in the state of Texas. They are happening as you read this. The public understands that libraries are the go-to places for information and technology access to link to jobs and build skills. We need for the decision makers at the state and local levels to understand this also. TSLAC’s modest request for new state funding to support local library workforce programs has not yet been addressed in either the House or Senate budget discussions this legislative session.That is a shame because for that modest investment, libraries could be critical links in the process of getting Texans back to work.

And based on the current numbers, it looks like Texas job-seekers need all the help they can get.

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