April 24, 2013

Positive results for some taking advantage of computer lab tech classes

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Karen Barton, Community Ambassador at the Urbana Free Library

Karen Barton, Community Ambassador at the Urbana Free Library

CU-CitizenAccess worked with faculty from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science to secure a grant from the state that offers skills training to help participants secure jobs. The money was used to place community ambassadors in public computer labs to offer computer literacy training and workshops to underserved populations from the Urbana Free Library, Salt and Light Food Pantry and Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park as well as a public computer lab in East St. Louis. 

We’ve asked our local community ambassadors to blog about their experiences.

By Karen Barton/For CU-CitizenAccess.org — A highlight of this week is that a patron I have been working with since the fall has found both full-time and part-time work. He has been to at least one Tech 21 class, including the one on online job seeking, and I have also helped him with a cover letter and online applications in the computer lab. His full-time position is as a machinist at a company that builds naval simulators somewhere outside of Champaign. He has also signed on to do “extra help” at UIUC, which would entail manual labor. He said that they were not exactly the types of positions he was looking for, but that he is just happy to be working. He also said that he would like to take more classes at the library.

There were also two people who signed up for the May 4 class on online job seeking. One is a young 22 year old woman who has cerebral palsy, yet she is very high-functioning. She had approached the desk asking for a book about making resumes, but instead I printed a handout from the recent Tech 21 class called “Being Professional on Paper” and sat down with her for an hour and a half to help her create a resume, staying 30 minutes after my shift. The patron had created a draft of a resume on notebook paper and we used a template in Microsoft Word to begin. She asked me many questions about my life, such as how many degrees I have and how I got the job at the library. She also shared with me how she has been treated because of her condition, although I did not ask her about it.

I learned that this patron had previously begun an AAS (Associate in Applied Science) degree in Office Professions at Parkland College, yet wants to go back to school to finish. I also learned that she is already working at a retail store as a greeter, her first job and a position that she has only had since March 3, yet to my surprise, new management there has asked everyone to reapply for their jobs. They have asked for both a resume and a cover letter. I think that this is extremely unfortunate and really has the possibility to displace workers, especially those adversely affected by the digital divide and minorities. The patron let me know that she really appreciated that I took the time to sit with her and speak with her. Because I had to leave, I asked another librarian to make sure that she was able to save the resume and that she would get help creating a cover letter.

Later on, I heard back from this young lady. She had completed another interview and said she is confident that they will keep her since it seemed to go really well. Before leaving, she randomly said, “I wish that I had more time to be here, but I have to work. I’m not going back to being broke. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that I’m limited. I love myself very much.”