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Library Provides Alpha House Residents with Computer Skills Training

One question Library staff often asks is, “What does the community need, and how can we provide it?” Here’s one success story.

Recently we learned that men and women released from federal prison and are enrolled in a local residential re-entry center, Alpha House of Springfield, must find and hold down a full-time job. It has a 90 percent placement rate and 90 percent of residents are employed.

But so much of a job search requires computer skills – creating an email account, writing a resume, researching online, submitting online applications and getting employer notifications. Some employers only provide paycheck stubs online.

Yet many of the Alpha House clients had little or no experience with computers in prison, says Betsy Sandbothe, Alpha House social services coordinator. That makes it all the more difficult to prepare for new, better lives.

We had an idea: The Library’s Edge Community Technology Center, which offers computer skills classes in the Midtown Carnegie Branch, also has a mobile lab. Instructor Krissy Sinor brings multiple laptops for the computer classes she teaches at most of the library branches.

We asked: If the Alpha House clients need help and the residence has Wi-Fi for Internet access, can the Edge provide some skills training to ease the re-entry process?

The result: Sinor has given several scheduled sessions this summer at Alpha House with five to eight residents and home-detention clients at a time who are ready to look for jobs. She brings the laptops and a projector for the students to follow along as they learn some basic skills and get some good advice for using social media for job searches, Sinor says.

The Alpha House also owns a couple desktop computers with resume software so residents can work on their resumes, job searches and applications when the Edge mobile class isn’t scheduled.

Residents who have taken the voluntary classes leave more self-confident about entering the workforce, Sandbothe says.

“This just makes them feel more comfortable,” Sandbothe says. “…There’s the Internet and filling out boxes in online applications and it’s just daunting and overwhelming for them,” she adds, “and this has made a huge difference.”

 

Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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