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Building Skills for Employability

Hartford Public Library, CT
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Innovation Summary

The Library, with Capitol Workforce Partners (the regional WIB), has created CTWorks @HPL at the Downtown Library. Career agents are coupled with library staff to provide a range of services to the unemployed. Onsite education and work opportunities in the library's full service cafe are part of the service.

Innovation Leader: Matthew Poland, CEO, mpoland@hplct.org

Problem Statement

There is a major need in Hartford for job and career services because unemployment is currently over 17 percent, more than twice the national average. The staff wanted to explore a broader service offering by creating a public outplacement service which would focus on an individual’s needs in a more holistic way rather than simply developing a resume or self-exploration. The Library was in the early stages of identifying grants to fund such a project when it connected with the region’s WIB, Capital Workforce Partners, which was having a difficulty attracting citizens to its only center on the outskirts of the City. So they created CTWorks@HPL. The WIB transferred two career agents to the Downtown library, where they occupy the 2000 sq. ft. job and career center that has 20 dedicated computer stations and modular open space. The WIB would have paid those agents anyway, so there was no increased cost to the agency, and none to the Library beyond space. Besides that positive atmosphere, the library is centrally located, and already attracts high traffic, likely making more people aware of the services. “Wraparound services” are the most important advantage: career agents refer their clients to the library services such as citizenship resources, language and reading classes, and digital literacy help to speed the employability process.

Innovation

Two CTWorks Career Agents will be located at CTWorks @ HPL. Services offered include skills assessments, online job search assistance, career plan development, assistance with resume writing, counseling services and job referrals. One‐on‐one services are offered to help job seekers with career planning, referral to training and workshops, and job development and placement. Because these specific services will be available at the LIbrary, job and career services meet the needs of people for more hours than those available at the traditional employment center. CTWorks@HPL is open from 10 am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday. The Library has dedicated technology resources to the center and a range of programming and onsite/online services to support the work being done by the career agents. Specialized software that builds technical skills is now available to the Library's customers to ensure appropriate skill development to meet jobs that in in Hartford's job funnel. The Library has also partnered with Billings Forge (BF), a local non-profit food service and workforce development organization, to create a teaching and catering kitchen in the Library's Creative Space, to teach classes in food service for certification purposes. Successful students will intern in the Library's new cafe run by BF and have the services of CTWorks@HPL available for long term job placement. A local community college will also the teaching kitchen for credit bearing coursework also leading to certification. An iBest model in food service is also planned.

Progress

This is a groundbreaking collaboration between the Library and Capital Workforce Partners and we are confident that it will result in hundreds of Hartford people getting back to work and starting fulfilling careers. Now it will be even easier for individuals, especially in the South and West ends of the city to get the guidance and training services they may need to assist them with their job search and career development. With impending workforce shortages in healthcare, manufacturing and other industry sectors, we need to equip Hartford’s talent pipeline with the skills they need, and what better a place to do that, than at the public library. CTWorks@HPL has worked with more than 2500 citizens since last July. The original goal was to secure employment for 100 people in the first year. At last count we had reached 105 with four months left. We have learned that the demand is greater than we anticipated. WE are convinced that this partnership has extended the capacity of both organizations to serve the needs of our citizens. Formal expansion to our branches is likely in the years ahead.