By Baileigh Rebowe | LSU Student
Louisiana residents unprepared for today's workforce because they lack business and technology skills should look to the public library for help.
Many of Louisiana's libraries offer the public Internet access, test-preparation materials for licensing and certification exams, and free technology and job-training classes.
Technology classes cover business software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and Power Point. Other classes focus on job search skills, career skills, communication skills and basic computer skills.
An online library database, called LearningExpress, presents more than 770 practice tests and interactive tutorials, along with more than one hundred e-books. They cover a range of careers, such as civil service, law enforcement, firefighting, military and real estate.
Assistance with the GED, ACT, SAT, AP GMAT, GRE, LSAT and MCAT exams also are available to the public through the online tool.
Deputy State librarian Diane Brown says the goal of the programs and training is to create a place where people who may not own a computer or have internet access can use the e-services and other helpful information available to them. It also is a place for patrons to learn valuable skills that will aide them in finding a job, she said.
"We are trying to decrease the digital divide. These programs will help us see a more employable and tech-savvy workforce that has access to solid credible information and has been shown to increase reading. It's about workforce development and improving the qualities and skills of the people in Louisiana."
According to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor's, workforce development has been identified as a key element in economic growth and the general well-being of Louisiana residents.
These free classes and other tools are part of "Louisiana Libraries: Connecting People to their Potential" project funded through an $8.8 million grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce for the purpose of recruiting and training a solid workforce.
The state library supplied an additional $2.4 million for Information Technology instructors.
State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton said access to technology is critical in today's information age, pointing out that more than a third of Louisiana's residents have no Internet.
"Simply put, without full access to the tremendous amount of information available through the Internet, a person cannot be a full participant in today's world."
A new resource for students called Homework4Louisiana was recently introduced at the libraries. This resource connects Louisiana K-12 students, adults preparing for the GED and college students to ask a live online tutor for help with studying and homework.
"All of these resources are completely free of charge and we encourage everyone to explore what is available," said Hamilton.