Austin Public Library, Texas
Austin Public Library partnered with Austin Community College to bring vocational educational opportunities to one of its most underserved communities by offering ACC’s Welding Class that allows students to receive a Welding Certification.
Hosting this class opened up partnership opportunities with ACC and other educational institutions and organizations. It increased customer base since most students did not hold a library card. Because students handle hazardous materials, the Memorandum of Understanding took a year to work out legal and liability concerns. A parking lot large enough to host the mobile pod, installation of 14 temporary welding bays and enough room to move equipment in and out were needed.
Key Elements of Innovation
A mobile education pod, with generator, was brought on site. Due to its mobility the classroom can be brought to students rather than the other way around. Having the classroom in one’s neighborhood made it easier to arrange for child care since the "college" may be only blocks away from home. The library subsidized partial tuition for students who demonstrated a need so that students paid only $300 of $795. Covering some of the tuition meant students had a stake in their education.
Fourteen students enrolled and 13 graduated. All 13 students are now working as welders, earning considerably more than they previously did. This means an increase in disposable income, the number of skilled citizens in the workforce, home ownership, an expanding tax base and a decrease in unemployment both in the lower income area the Southeast Branch Library serves and the City of Austin as a whole. We foresee the class being replicated at another branch in the spring of 2020. There is a waitlist of over 70 students.