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DOL extols benefits of workforce system collaboration with public libraries

Image Source: Youth Action Project

In a Training and Employment Notice (TEN) issued this week by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA), Assistant Secretary Portia Wu encouraged leaders of our nation’s workforce investment system to continue building upon the role that public libraries play in addressing the needs of American workers, job seekers, and employers.

The notice, directed to state workforce agencies, state workforce liaisons, state and local workforce boards, and American Job Center directors, advises that “collaboration with public libraries can increase the quality and quantity of access points for individuals to receive needed career information and assistance.”

The vital role that libraries play in assisting job seekers and unemployed workers is recognized in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed in 2014. Recognizing that libraries both help visitors find workforce and labor market information and assist them in searching for jobs, WIOA specifically designates public libraries among the available partners for American Job Centers.

Citing examples such as the 2015 grant initiative involving the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and 26 municipal and county libraries in the state, as well as a 2012 partnership between the Maryland Department of Labor and Maryland Public Libraries, the advisory also highlights existing partnerships and activities between libraries and DOL efforts on the national level. For example, public libraries are included in America’s Service Locator, a national online search tool that can be used to locate both the nearest library and an American Job Center or social service provider within a community. DOL’s ETA has also provided training for librarians and other staff on national electronic tools, including the workforce information portal CareerOneStop and the occupation database O*NET. District Dispatch readers may also recall webinars hosted by ALA, IMLS, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Labor with the goal of introducing WIOA to libraries and stakeholders across the country.

Beyond these existing partnerships, the notice encourages several areas of further collaboration to extend career and employment services in libraries, such as:

  • Leveraging digital literacy activities occurring in public libraries;
  • Collaborating to educate library staff about in-person and virtual employment and training resources available through the public workforce system;
  • Including libraries as a stop on the route of mobile American Job Centers;
  • Using space available at a libraries to provide career assistance and employment services to library patrons (e.g. familiarizing patrons with career resources available electronically or in-person at American Job Centers) or to host career events (e.g. job fairs);
  • Sharing workforce and labor market information, including data on high-growth industries and occupations, between the public workforce system and libraries;
  • Signing Memoranda of Understanding or other formal agreements; and
  • Co-locating American Job Centers and libraries.

Interested in how your library can grow its employment and training services? Be sure to reach out to the workforce development center in your local area to learn more about opportunities to collaborate on serving career and employment needs in your community.

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Stephen Mayeaux was the Information Manager for the Washington Office.

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