Library pilot program helps job seekers Volunteers lend their expertise to assist library patrons

On a quiet March evening, volunteers at Edmonton Public Library’s Sprucewood branch helped job-seeking customers on the first day of an eight-week pilot program.

For the next two hours, volunteers provided library patrons with individualized help.

Patrick Nguyen, one of the pilot volunteers at Sprucewood library, explained he stumbled across the volunteer opportunity.

“I work at the U of A Career Centre. I thought it was a good fit for me.”

One of the people Nguyen helped was Abdullahi Abdaulle, who wanted to work on his resume. Abdaulle, who was applying for a job, said the advice Nguyen gave him was valuable.

Amanda Bird, associate manager at Lois Hole library, explained the pilot project was created due to the recommendations of a report.  In 2015, EPL decided to hire an intern librarian to explore workforce development needs and partnerships. The intern recommended that EPL create a program where volunteers help job seekers.

“Our job-seeking customers (we have a lot of them) need one-on-one support our library staff just can’t provide,” said Bird. “A cover letter and resume are the first things a prospective employer sees.”

The pilot program, held at the Calder and Sprucewood branches, started March 5 and March 7 respectively and runs until April 30 and April 25.

“EPL volunteers were recruited,” said Bird. “They have experience in the human resources field and in helping people review resumes and conduct a job search. We want to ensure our customers are given expert advice.”

Two volunteers help at each location, with sessions running at Calder library on Mondays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, and at Sprucewood library on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

“Calder and Sprucewood both scored high on branches where people asked about job information,” explained Bird. “And those locations reported high unemployment in the city census.”

It’s a first-come-first-served program, with volunteers spending as much time as needed with participants. Upon arriving, participants should stop by the front desk and sign up for a session.

“It’s really customer generated. Customers come in with their questions and volunteers do their best to provide answers,” said Bird. “Job seekers have complex needs. We thought one-on-one help would work best.”

That said, if a group of people have the same question, the volunteers can answer the question to the group.

While participants can ask any job-seeking question, some tips people can expect to get from the sessions include help with writing or formatting a resume, what information to include in a cover letter, and help with job search navigation and the job application process.

“People with low digital literacy skills could ask a volunteer to transcribe resumes or cover letters,” added Bird.

Volunteers expect a mix of experience from participants, ranging from people who have been out of the job market for a while to new job seekers to people who want to brush up on their skills.

The pilot’s been receiving positive reviews.

“Customers say they feel more confident due to one-on-one feedback,” said Bird. “So far it’s been very popular.”

The program may continue as long as volunteers are willing to contribute their time and expertise.


RESUME & JOB APPLICATION HELP

Free, drop-in pilot program

Calder branch (12710 131 Ave)

Mondays, 6:30-8:30 pm

March 5-April 30, 2018 (cancelled April 2 )

Sprucewood branch (11555 95 St)

Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30 pm

March 7-April 25, 2018


Featured Image: Patrick Nguyen, one of Sprucewood’s volunteers, gets ready to help library patrons with their questions. | Talea Medynski

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