Library, North Idaho College in partnership to build computer job skills
A major grant by the Women’s Gift Alliance (WGA) Fund in the Idaho Community Foundation will fund equipment purchases for a project to be offered by the Coeur d’Alene Public Library and North Idaho College Adult Basic Education (ABE) to boost the computer skills of people looking for jobs or hoping to re-enter the job market.
|Left to right, Rex Fairfield, Director of Adult Basic Education for NIC; Carol Randall and Shelley Rosenberger, co-chairs for the Women’s Gift Alliance Grant Committee; Mike Mires NIC Dean of Professional, Technical and Workforce Education; Ruth Pratt, Executive Director of the Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation; and foundation members Roberta Larsen, Mary Sanderson, JoAnn Nelson and Judi Messina.
A grant written by Ruth Pratt, Executive Director of the Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation, with assistance from NIC ABE Director Rex Fairfield, for $22,625 was awarded to the library Thursday during a WGA luncheon at the library.
The project has also received a $2,000 grant from Waste Management of Idaho and $1,000 from the Idaho Community Foundation itself.
The grant will fund the purchase of 20 laptops, a charging storage unit and other equipment to be used by the library for computer workshops of various sizes to be offered in its meeting rooms utilizing volunteer instructors provided by ABE.
Pratt said that the workshops are intended to fill the needs of individuals who may lack basic computer skills, “even basic keyboarding” that may be preventing them from pursuing employment. The project, called the “Retool Box,” is the library and NIC’s response.
“This program fills a knowledge gap and need that is not met anywhere else in the community for free,” she said. “And it does it in the most accessible – and least intimidating – of settings in our community, where we continue to see more than 25,000 people per month using our services.”
The library currently provides free computer workshops, but can seat only nine people per session in its computer lab on the upper level of Front Avenue building. Those computers are then not available to other patrons while the workshops are in session. In addition only limited amounts of staff time can be committed to the workshops.
Pratt noted that a recent study funded by the Gates Foundation indicated that in the past year nearly one third of all Americans ages 14 and older – about 77 million people – used a public library computer or wireless network to access the Internet.
“Particularly as people have struggled through the recession ‘they relied on library technology to find work, apply for college, secure government benefits, learn about medical treatments and connect with their communities,’” she said, quoting from the report.
Library Director Bette Ammon said the impetus to pursue the grant was patrons seeking staff help to use the library computers, especially for those filling out online job applications, creating resumes, and conducting job searches.
“In many cases we are asked to assist people with few or no computer skills,” Ammon said. “Often the time the staff is able to give to provide one-on-one training is just not adequate for the patrons’ needs. Many people are finding themselves re-entering the job market and the technology has moved on.”
Pratt noted, too, that that while the training at the library may be basic, the workshops may also provide a springboard for individuals to pursue more formal education at NIC and other training opportunities.
North Idaho College will provide instructional support and personnel through the Workforce Training and ABE programs to provide basic computer training. In addition, the NIC ABE program and the library will work together to develop a referral process between programs to facilitate access to services at each institution.
“We are so pleased to be working with our partners to help meet the needs of this population of people who so desperately need these services,” Fairfield said. “It is our hope that this collaboration takes it even one step further, by cross-referring individuals to services within the library, Idaho Department of Labor and NIC ABE/GED that can further help them meet their education and career goals.”
Pratt said the library’s new equipment has been ordered and that library staff will be working with ABE to schedule the training sessions. Other community partners, such as the Idaho Department of Labor, will possibly become involved as training needs are identified.
“Thank you,” Pratt said to the members of the WGA. “Your investment will reap invaluable rewards by making life-changing opportunities available to many people.”
News about the library and other city departments is also available on the City of Coeur d’Alene news blog: http://cdacity.blogspot.com/.