Off the books and on the job: libraries and community centres supporting workers in transition

Pippa Webb and Simone Wise-Carrig, City of Salisbury

Concurrent session 20
Thursday 1 September 2016, 11:30am - 11:55am


The social shock created by the withdrawal of the automotive manufacturing industry in Northern Adelaide will have far reaching effects for the community.  As the employment landscape in Northern Adelaide undergoes a transformation, generations who have grown up with specific skill sets and assured job security find themselves in an entirely new job market which demands completely different skills and knowledge. Many workers find themselves unable to adapt to these conditions, resulting in unemployment and leading to negative flow on effects in already disadvantaged areas.  Many such workers lack sufficient literacy skills to transition effectively.  The sustained loss of manufacturing work has led to a major decline in job opportunities for men with only modest levels of formal education. In part this shows up in unemployment statistics. But it is also evident in the withdrawal from the workforce altogether.

In response to the announced closure of Holden (Elizabeth) in 2017, which will result in the displacement of thousands of workers, the City of Salisbury established a Working Group with the objective to developing partnerships, programs and services to be delivered out of libraries and community centres. Through the partnerships we established, we were able to identify key areas of need in the workforce that we as libraries and community centres were perfectly positioned to address. These identified needs included: adult literacy, digital competencies, and job seeking skills. The programs and services we created in response were designed to provide participants with practical skills and development in these areas.

Importantly we also introduced a new group of customers that are not traditional users of our services - middle aged males with low literacy.

This paper will be based on research methodologies of a qualitative nature, and include the following: literature review, primary research undertaken through conducting the programs under discussion, and use of primary data sources including Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Social shock requires a response similar to large environmental disasters.  Libraries and Community Centres can provide an agile and targeted response to fill gaps in services and provide ongoing sustained support to the community. The closure of auto manufacturing in Adelaide will have far-reaching consequences in the community. Not only will direct Holden employees be affected, there is also the supply chain, existing youth and long term unemployed, and unskilled labour force to consider.  The City of Salisbury Libraries and Community Centres are committed to supporting the whole community, who may be facing significant changes in their personal and working lives.

A core function of Libraries and Community Centres is to improve literacies and as little as a 1% improvement in adult literacy levels can lead to a 2.5% improvement in productivity.  As well as the socioeconomic factors, low literacy levels have been shown to link to poor health outcomes, cyclic poverty and welfare dependency, alongside higher crime rates. There are implications for participating in the democratic process, understanding policies, voting, as well as being able to interact with government agencies.

Paper - Now available.

Presentation - Now available.


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