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WeCAN Works (WW)

Houston Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Nicole H. Robinson, Director, Digital Inclusion, nicoleh.robinson@houstontx.gov

Problem Statement

The knowledge and skills necessary to work, prosper and participate in current society are tied to educational attainment and the ability to access and use information and communication technology tools. As a result of the recession, Houston has experienced record unemployment with over 240,000 unemployed Houstonians seeking jobs and career changes. This is compounded by the following facts: In 2009, 53.9% of students in Harris county public schools were considered at risk of dropping out. Coincidentally, Texas ranks last in the nation in the percentage of adults with high school diplomas; with only 70% of Houstonians having a high school diploma. By 2014, more than 77% of all jobs in the US will require some level of computer literacy. However, only 13% of American adults are proficient in the knowledge and skills needed to identify and perform computational tasks, and 1/3 of American adults will remain without access to that training.

Innovation

WW is an innovative drop out-prevention, GED recovery, and digital literacy and workforce skills training initiative. WW is designed to improve the employability and economic opportunity of Houston’s underserved, unskilled, and unemployed by preparing them for sustainable career paths and jobs. Key partners include Houston Community College, Houston Independent School District, Workforce Solutions, and the Greater Houston Partnership. Using combined partner resources, WW offers three tracks of free programming: 1) Track I targets at-risk high school students and provides them with internship placements in high demand/growth fields, with a goal of graduation; 2) Track II provides out of school youth and adults training to obtain their GED; 3) Track III provides digital literacy and workforce skills training to Houstonians without these skills. All tracks provide varied levels of digital literacy and workforce skills training, career counseling and job placement assistance at over 89 libraries, community colleges, high schools, career offices and community centers in high need areas.

Progress

Since the 2009 launch, WW is significantly changing the landscape of Houston’s workforce and economy and is receiving considerable support from industry leaders including Microsoft, who has granted WW the largest award on record for their corporation, $4.5 million. Recognized as a program that is “helping to unlock the career potential of all Houstonians,” more than 320,000 Houstonians have benefitted from WW to date.