PLA Staff Liaison Public Policy & Advocacy, ALA Chicago, Illinois
Public libraries have always been critical assets in communities to help people gain new skills and find or improve employment opportunities. This work is more important than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown millions out of work and challenged libraries to find creative ways to help jobseekers and adult learners navigate an uncertain and fast-changing landscape. In addition, a persistent digital divide constrained access to online resources for many job seekers, and a steady decline in employer-supported training has challenged even those in the workforce to keep up and advance their careers. How can public libraries ensure those hit by job losses direct their energies into promising career paths and develop the skills they need to gain or improve employment? How can public libraries strategically connect with local, state, and national workforce partners and take advantage of major federal policies that support adult education and workforce development?
Hear about how the Public Library Association (PLA), with partners like Microsoft, LinkedIn, LibsWork and the National Skills Coalition, is supporting libraries to offer high-need technology training and strengthening partnerships to advance equitable economic recovery for all. PLA’s Skilling for Employment initiative is promoting time-limited resources to integrate into the library’s programming and communications, such as free learning paths and LinkedIn Learning classes, GitHub Learning Lab tools, and low-cost Microsoft Certifications. These tools are specifically chosen to help learners be ready for jobs that are well positioned to continue to grow in the future. PLA is also linking libraries to recent data on American workers’ digital skill gaps and promoting opportunities for libraries to use this data to educate policymakers about the need for additional funding and support for the roles libraries play in this space. This session will provide practical recommendations for how librarians can make their voices heard in the workforce policy arena and help narrow racial equity gaps in skill-building opportunities.