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Libraries and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

November 13, 2014

This article is cross-posted on the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education blog hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor blog

Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor

Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education

Susan Hildreth, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services

Our agencies have long recognized the role of libraries to help meet the workforce training and job search needs of the American public.  At the height of the recession, more than 30 million people reported using library computers for workforce related needs and 3.7 million of them reported finding work.  Today, 96 percent of libraries surveyed offer online job and employment resources and 78 percent offer programs to help people apply for jobs.

In July, the President signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) which strengthens and aligns Federal employment, education, and training servicesOverwhelmingly approved by both the House and the Senate, the legislation is the result of a bipartisan agreement that recognizes the vital role the workforce system plays in providing the services and resources job seekers need to access the kinds of skills training, career information, and education that are required for today’s job market. The Act aligns with and complements the President’s Vision for Job-Driven Workforce Development, as it prepares workers for 21st century jobs and ensures American businesses have skilled workers to be competitive in global economy.

We are pleased that WIOA includes several exciting changes that better align federal resources and call for local community-based partnerships to increase access to services.  WIOA explicitly identifies public libraries as potential partners of the American Job Center network, and acknowledges libraries’ ability to provide an expansive array of job search services. It also recognizes libraries as important providers of federally supported training and employment for adult education and literacy. WIOA instructs state and local workforce development boards to boost “digital literacy skills” at American Job Centers – a task perfectly suited to public libraries!

We are delighted that the role public libraries play in workforce development is being acknowledged. Every day, people in communities across the United States use libraries to access the Web for career development—boosting their skills through online learning, improving their English literacy and digital literacy, and finding work. Public libraries can do even more with better collaboration with state and local workforce boards.

We thank American Job Centers, the nation’s employment skills training programs, and public libraries for all they do to serve our nation’s job seekers and contribute to the country’s economic vitality.   Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we will deliver better coordinated services so that students and jobseekers acquire the skills needed in a competitive 21st century economy.

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