Workforce Innovation

Summary of Positions

  • ALA promotes libraries as established centers for learning, advancement, and economic opportunity for all.
  • ALA urges decision makers and agencies implicated in economic opportunity development to include libraries in their planning.
  • ALA supports grants to states or localities that promote workforce development through libraries and career exploration and planning by job seekers of all ages.
  • ALA encourages cooperation across programs and funding streams in the delivery of client-centered services to job seekers, youth, and employers.
  • ALA believes strengthening educational and learning opportunities for youth through libraries is vital to building a strong foundation for economic success.

The Issue

Every day, libraries across the country empower job seekers to access employment services and training, leading to better jobs and improved career pathways. Over 99% of public libraries provide internet access, which is a vital resource for job seekers. Among Americans who have looked for work in the last two years, 79% used online resources in their most recent job search and 34% say these online resources were the most important tool available to them.

Of course, the services libraries provide go beyond broadband. People use libraries to improve job skills, access new technologies, pursue vocational and educational programs, start new businesses, and advance research. Access to new technology and the ability to use it effectively are central to success in the new economy. Today’s libraries have maker spaces, 3D printers, laser cutters, multimedia studios, and other technological resources, enabling people to engage in diverse disciplines from advanced manufacturing to animation. Everyone may use these resources for business activities, in pursuit of formal educational programs, and in informal experimentation.

From connecting job seekers with employers, to educating and advancing the work of the next generation of entrepreneurs, libraries are established centers for learning and advancement. Recent data from State Library Administrative Agencies shows that over half of states and territories (52%) currently have programs and activities related to workforce development, and over a third (39%) indicated plans to coordinate with workforce agencies in the years to come. And, with 120,000 locations, leveraging libraries to advance economic opportunity is cost-effective. This national infrastructure is already in place, ready to accommodate new programs. Increasingly, libraries are re-designing spaces to accommodate mobile work. Libraries of all sizes informally support freelancers and contractors, and a growing number offer dedicated co-working spaces.

In 2014, Congress reauthorized the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to help job seekers and workers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market. This legislation now recognizes the part libraries can play in assisting these job seekers and be integrated into the state and local plans to deliver these crucial services. WIOA strengthens the capacity of public libraries to support workforce investment in local communities by including the following provisions:

  • Ensure State Workforce Development Boards develop strategies for technological improvements to facilitate access to, and improve the quality of, services and activities provided through the one-stop delivery system, including improvements to enhance digital literacy skills as defined by IMLS
  • Ensure Local Workforce Development Boards develop strategies for using technology to maximize the accessibility and effectiveness of the local workforce development system by increasing access to services and programs of the one-stop delivery system, such as improving digital literacy skills
  • Authorize employment, education, and training programs provided by public libraries as additional one-stop partners
  • Authorize adult education and literacy activities provided by public libraries
  • Authorize a public library as an eligible provider of adult education and literacy services
  • Include a definition of “workforce preparation activities” that specifically includes digital literacy skills
  • Authorize technical assistance activities related to the development and dissemination of proven models for addressing the digital literacy needs of adults, including older adults
  • Encourage support for national, regional, or local networks of private nonprofit organizations, public libraries, or institutions of higher education to strengthen the ability of those organizations to meet various performance requirements

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