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Eskills Library and Job Placement Center

Fort Worth Library
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Innovation Summary

The eSkills Library and Job Center opened in 2011 to serve as an express library and job center. In response to a growing need, the library, in conjunction with several community partners, strives to assist those in need of workforce development skills by providing computer resources along with structured training.

Innovation Leader: LG Swift, Eskills Library and Job Placement Center Manager, lswift@fortworthlibrary.org

Problem Statement

This newly created venue is an example of how Fort Worth pursued public and private partnerships that help reduce the city’s operating costs while offering the community a valuable service. Due to the economic climate, unemployment in Tarrant County stands at 64,964(9.1%) and Texas ranks 51st with those graduating with a high school diploma. When you compare, Fort Worth is barely below the national rate of 9.3% unemployment and slightly above the State rate of 8.8%. Fort Worth ISD reports that over 50% of the current student body is considered at risk. The dropout rate of 7.3% for Fort Worth ISD is almost double that of the State average. eSkills Library and Job Center user groups are mature, middle and lower income singles, single parent households and traditional families living in older homes. Unemployment, underemployment, modest education, and lack of resources are characteristic of the community. . Employers seek a well educated and qualified workforce with current computer skills. Future employment will be based on those skilled in computer technology at every level of employment. The eSkills Library and Job Center serves to bridge the gap of inequities by providing workforce preparation programs that meet the needs of the community, access to computer resources and educational classes that better prepare citizens to compete in the job market.

Innovation

In 2010, the Fort Worth library faced a closure of one of its branches, Meadowbrook. However, library service was still in high demand in the surrounding community. In an effort to find a solution to the problem, the library reached out to Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County to repurpose the traditional branch into one with a specific purpose: assist residents with their workforce development skills. Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County promised to provide a steady offering of workforce workshops while the library supplied books and other material helping job seekers. The two partners, joined by the Friends of the Fort Worth Library, Inc., created the Eskills Library and Job Center, which was the first of its kind for the City of Fort Worth. The three partners all contributed funds to the project and outlined four main objectives for the branch. 1)The branch was to provide sufficient computers so customers could access electronic resources aiding in job search and workforce development. 2)The branch was to provide classes and workshops to assist customers in becoming more employable and to communicate and share information with employers more efficiently. 3) The branch also endeavored to increase literacy levels by providing career and employment resources, general information and library materials for residents of the community. 4)The three partners sought to enhance this facility, which is over 50 years old, making it a more attractive resource for the community. Library services were improved due to extensive renovation efforts that added a meeting/training room, improved electrical/network infrastructure, added seven additional desktops and twenty laptops for public use, along with WiFi capabilities and provided an additional Early Literacy Station (ELS) for early childhood education. Office Application classes were offered that lead to certification for students.

Progress

eSkills Library and Job Center began in July 2011 with under 60 students attending classes and has now grown to over 300. Classes increased from 46 sessions per month to over 60 sessions per month with computer training and GED classes reporting increased attendance. Since opening, additional partners have joined in an effort to address the community needs: Tarrant County College, City of Fort Worth Human Resources Back-To-Work Program, Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and we are currently pursuing partnering with Goodwill Industries. New programs such as the Fatherhood Program, offered by the Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, educates men on how to be better fathers and also teaches them how to reach their maximum employment potential. The Next Step Program, also offered by Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County and is for ex-offenders, will began and is funded through a federal grant that works to improve their job search skills, computer skills and their educational skills to expand employment opportunities. Additionally, a steering committee is being created comprised of local chambers of commerce, community leaders and those working with the unemployed and underemployed to bring together organizations with common interests and expertise on sustainable ideas for the future. After only being opened for five months Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County recognized the new eSkills Library and Job Center with the “Keeping Tarrant County Partnering Award”. Outcomes will be measured quarterly through evaluations that capture customers served, number of classes conducted, customers employed and customers promoted. We are working closely with the Workforce Solutions of Tarrant County utilizing their database “TWIST” to assist in gathering the data needed to enable us to move forward in expanding this partnership.