Workforce Development: A Library Partnership Success Story

Michele Kristakis /

Originally written and published on 4 May 2022 to LinkedIn by Michele Kristakis, a Library Services Consultant focusing on public libraries at OCLC.

Columbus Metropolitan Library at job fair

OCLC’s headquarters are in Dublin, Ohio, a neighbor to the award-winning Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML). Not only is CML frequented by OCLC employees because it’s their local system, but many of us visit (I work out of Pittsburgh, PA) from time to time to stay in tune with public library trends. CML is without question a trendsetter.

During one of those visits, I heard about CML’s workforce development partnership with a local healthcare technology company, CoverMyMeds, as well as other partners like Goodwill and Jewish Family Services. 

“The partnership with Columbus Metropolitan Library allows Goodwill Columbus to meet people where they are in their communities. This is a crucial step in helping community members gain access to workforce development services in a space that is familiar to them with trusted providers. We are fortunate to work with CML as a hub for community activity throughout central Ohio.” ~ Jenifer Garey. Director, Workforce Development and Learning, Goodwill Columbus.

This partnership excited me for its positive impact on community employment and the potential for replication by other public libraries. It’s two organizations with intersecting missions working together to reinforce each other’s strengths. CoverMyMeds has made a commitment to community involvement that supports the long-term success of staff and residents. Screenshot from news broadcast about Columbus Metropolitan Library partnership with CoverMyMedsIn this case, they are working with CML to both curate the technology-focused curriculum and to make their own staff available for mock job interviews and resume coaching. This enhances the library’s programs that include an introduction to computers and common software programs as well as “soft skills training.” 

I wanted to check in to see how the program has advanced over the last two years. Bisha Rumicho, Life Skills Leader at CML, and Jon Mullineaux, Life Skills Specialist at CML, generously offered to talk with me about how the partnership has evolved.

The power of local partnerships

Growing out of the original program, CML now implements a network of classes, resources, contacts, and partners with a proven track record for helping people grow skills and find jobs. It’s the partnerships—the network of business leaders, contacts, and library staff—that really make the program work, noted Jon. These partnerships are vital because the CML Job and Career Help philosophy isn’t just about signing people up for classes; it’s a holistic, high-touch approach that moves people along the path to better jobs.

Different stories, common outcomes

Job Training at Columbus Metropolitan Library

Jon told me about one of their success stories with a local man (let’s call him Greg) who came in for technical training. He wanted to learn new skills and get a full-time position that would afford him permanent housing. While that’s pretty normal for folks coming in for job training, what’s not as typical is the strategic planning that’s gone into making CML’s program much more inclusive. The advisory council resources meant that Jon was able to also help obtain training for Greg’s wife, get Greg into some interviews at a career fair and eventually help them both find jobs. “They got out of the shelter just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I know a lot of people weren’t so lucky, but it was a happy confirmation of how well the elements of our programs work when put together as a whole.”

“Jewish Family Services is proud their relationship as partners delivering workforce development services in the community tailored for the community and acknowledges the power of collective impact. Providing individualized career coaching, while leveraging community access through technology and meeting space has been crucial to connecting to job seekers. Jewish Family Services feels strongly with partners like Goodwill Columbus and the Columbus Metropolitan Library, we can help people find better employment to stabilize their households and as a result create positive economic impact.” ~ Melissa Wolf Starr. Chief Program Officer, Jewish Family Services.

One success story at a time

“Everyone who comes to us is highly motivated,” noted Jon. “These are people who want to put in the effort. But when it comes to getting ready for a new job, they often don’t even know what they don’t know.”

“That’s why addressing the combination of soft skills and technical training is so important,” added Bisha. “Our residents often face multiple obstacles: financial and familial obligations; time and money commitments; distance to training centers. And most providers lack the expertise required to work with individuals with significant barriers to employment.”

Patron receiving assistance at Columbus Metropolitan Library's Job Help Center

CoverMyMeds was a great choice as a partner in this regard, as its team could provide both hands-on training and feedback about how to better prepare applicants for interviews and jobs in similar organizations. The workplace skills training covers things like dependability, communication, ethics, teamwork, decision making, and time management. These may seem like simple concepts, but they’re critical support for candidates who may lack traditional training and job experiences. 

Linking that kind of training to technical education, employment services, other social and business partners, and employer-specific connections is what makes the difference. While the program began at two specific CML branches, many of the online training and materials are easily available to all nearby residents, in part because COVID-19 restrictions required much of the content to be virtual. 

“The success we’ve seen with the workforce readiness program is truly remarkable and rewarding. We’re honored to continue supporting this important program that infuses growth and creates opportunity for our neighbors.” ~ Kate Bauer. Senior Manager of Community Engagement, CoverMyMeds.

I think most of us would agree that looking for a job, itself, is hard work. But so is planning a successful way to put context and connections around a variety of diverse programs and partnerships. My thanks to Bisha and Jon and the others at CML for sharing the details of their efforts with me. It’s an excellent example of how libraries can be at the center of our communities, putting the pieces together for better results—one success story at a time.

Photos by Columbus Metropolitan Library, used with permission.

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