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Recareering @ 50+ Expo

Pierce County Library System

Innovation Summary

Pierce County Library System collaborated with community partners to offer an Expo geared toward assisting mid-life (50+) career changers/job hunters with assessing their strengths, and developing skills and strategies to successfully navigate the current job market, as well as explore the possibilities of entrepreneurship.

Innovation Leader: Kristine Countryman, Adult Services Librarian, kcountryman@piercecountylibrary.org

Problem Statement

In the current economic climate, workers aged 50 and older have faced some of the greatest challenges returning to work. These challenges range from facing a changed set of job seeker expectations, to ageism, and outdated skill sets. In many circumstances, previous jobs, and the skills that those jobs required, simply don't exist. This requires an individual to face the challenge of deciding what career to retrain for. Workers 55 and over have been especially hard hit in the economic downturn. Older workers not only are enduring record-high levels of unemployment, but also stay jobless longer than others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average duration of unemployment was 52.9 weeks in October 2011 for workers ages 55 and over, compared with an average of 37.3 weeks for workers under the age of 55.

Innovation

Pierce County Library collaborated with local technical and community colleges, AARP, Workforce Central, Pierce County Aging and Disability Resource Center, and other community partners to assist 50+ aged job seekers with finding meaningful work and exploring alternative career options, particularly when retirement is not an option. We offered an expo that included training workshops, an employer panel discussion detailing what 50+ job seekers specifically can offer to employers, personalized resume critiques, and a chance to meet with local firms that had vacant positions. Pierce County Library staff offered classes on using WOIS, a subscription database that we offer to county residents that provides information on local employment trends and projections, as well as offering aptitude assessments, educational opportunities and job listings. Library staff detailed other resources of interest to job seekers, specifically the Job + Business Centers available at our largest six branches, in a workshop titled Jump Start Your Job Search at the Library. In addition, library staff were able to offer a class with individualized attention to assist the technologically challenged with getting and using an email account - something required in today's job search. During the expo, the Library staffed a resource area that registered many attendees for library cards and offered information on Library services.

Progress

The expo was attended by over 400 participants, with employers and job seekers reporting that the event was a success. Over 75% of the attendees who responded to the evaluation rated the workshops effective or better and over 85% found the workshops useful and will use, or encourage others to use the connections and resources gained at the event. Employers were able to define their staffing needs and connect with individuals possessing those skills. Participants received information on library and community resources, connected with employers, and networked with others who could offer support and encouragement during the challenges of landing a job. One job seeker said he “was thrilled to have learned so much and made so many direct contacts in one day.” He felt that with the information he received, he had the tools and support to search for a job with confidence. Library staff networked and developed relationships with other community organizations. By the end of the event the Library System was firmly on the radar for many people who hadn’t used a library in years, and the Library was able to demonstrate to participants that we offer tools and resources that are relevant to their lives. The Expo enabled the Library to position itself as an invaluable resource to the 50+ job seeker, career changer and entrepreneur.