By Kevin Mills, Head of Government Partnerships
While vaccination rates climb and schools and businesses slowly open back up, unemployment rates remain a challenge, even in the largest economies. California has the largest GDP of any U.S. state, yet the technology epicenter is also tied for the highest unemployment rate in the country at 7.5%. The scale of this challenge requires innovative solutions to reach displaced workers and enhance the state’s wider recovery efforts.
Among the institutions leading the way is the California State Library, which has granted $4.36M in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand workforce development efforts. As part of this initiative, the State Library and its grant recipient, Pacific Library Partnership (PLP), are partnering with Coursera to launch a free statewide job training program that will prepare thousands of learners with digital skills and credentials needed to re-enter the workforce, unlock new job opportunities, and advance their careers.
“These are valuable resources for all Californians – and a good value investment of taxpayer dollars,” said Greg Lucas, California State Librarian. “During the pandemic, Californians entered their local libraries through the digital rather than the physical front door. These skill-building, self-improvement platforms are exactly the kind of thing they should be finding at their public libraries.”
Residents can visit their local public library in-person or online to access Coursera training for free the same way they would check out a digital book, only they earn a certificate for each course or program they complete. Through over 1,000 California-based libraries, learners will have access to over 5,000 job-relevant online courses, taught by leading university and industry educators including UC San Diego, UC Irvine, Amazon, and Microsoft in areas like business, technology, and data science.
The State Library-PLP-Coursera initiative also includes access to 15 entry-level Professional Certificate programs from industry partners like Google, IBM, Salesforce, and Meta. These certificate programs are designed to prepare workers without a college degree or technical experience for entry-level digital jobs in high-growth fields such as IT Support, cybersecurity, sales development, and marketing analytics.
“We know these unemployed or underemployed Californians are disproportionately women, people of color, young people, and those without a college degree,” Lucas said. “A key driver in making these services available online is to help women return to employment who left the workforce during the pandemic.”
Several entry-level certificates from Google and IBM have received American Council on Education (ACE) Credit Recommendations, opening up flexible pathways to degree programs. These certificates are also opening doors for women to pursue new job opportunities. According to the Women and Skills Report, in the US, women’s enrollments in entry-level Professional Certificates on Coursera increased from 27% in 2019 to 43% in the first half of 2021.
The training program includes additional education providers and is one part of a four-part $10.5M ARPA pandemic recovery effort the State Library is introducing throughout 2022. To realize the full potential of their digital inclusion efforts, the State Library will also offer programs that support residents in everything from internet connectivity and device access at-home to technical support for seniors.
Public libraries have long been a critical social infrastructure, providing local communities access to knowledge, connectivity, and employment resources for free. The pandemic makes their mission more urgent, and we’re proud to support forward-thinking institutions like the State Library as they take on a greater role in unifying key support initiatives and enabling access to critical resources for learners across the state.
We are proud to welcome the California State Library to a growing number of U.S. state and local government and public sector institutions partnering with Coursera to retrain displaced workers for the jobs of tomorrow, including New York, Tennessee, Missouri, and the city of Chicago.