Tennessee Job Training RVs: Who Could Have Done it Better? Public Libraries.
Last week it was announced by Tennessee’s new Republican Governor, Bill Haslam, that three RVs have been bought to address joblessness in this state. From the announcement:
Governor Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development today unveiled three vehicles designed to improve outcomes for those looking for work. Three “Career Coaches” were customized with 10 computer workstations with Internet access, printers, fax machines, and flat screen TV’s with SMART Board overlays to facilitate classroom instruction. The intent of these roving offices is to bring job matching and training to rural communities that have limited access to a Tennessee Career Center.
The vehicles will be based in Huntingdon, Nashville and Knoxville in order to cover all areas of the state. Each mobile unit will be staffed with three Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development employees who are trained in career counseling and unemployment benefits.
Those employees will do workshops on job search and interviewing skills, résumé preparation, administer GED Practice Tests, and the like.
In a long state with 95 counties, we are stationing mobile computer labs in RVs in *three* of them (two of which are urban), RVs which will then drive out to rural areas – and let’s remember that is not cheap – carrying equipment that is already on site in pretty much every county in the state, housed in public libraries.
Rather than buying the RVs, the gas required to drive three RVs all over the state, and inviting people to learn about job skills in the confines of said RVs (doesn’t that sound inviting?), the Governor could have elected to have Labor and Workforce Development employees drive smaller, regular cars – consuming less gas – to places where those computers and equipment already exist in more spacious environments with classrooms in place – our state’s many public libraries, already located in every county where these RVs will need to travel.
Some pretty nice efficiencies could have been realized, and they could have taken advantage of the computer skills training already in place in many if not most public libraries, at the same time connecting job seekers to a wealth of other educational resources (such as language learning and literacy resources). Some public libraries have already taken the initiative to provide job search, online application completion, and related training to library users – Haslam’s corps of experts could have supplemented that work by passing along knowledge for reuse, extending the utility of the programs beyond single visits. In some cases, it might have been necessary to provide additional equipment to a county’s public library – putting the money there instead of in fuel-guzzling RVs would have actually provided a benefit to those communities that would last beyond when the RV pulls out of town. Even with grant money funding the nearly $200,000 purchase cost of each RV, the ongoing and opportunity costs here are shameful.
Frankly, Governor Haslam should be embarrassed that somebody on his team didn’t already think of this. Public libraries and their staff could have done it better, for less money, in a way that would benefit residents of Tennessee for more time. Sure, an RV can go directly to the factory that’s shutting down and spend a day or a week there – but our public libraries are there every day in every county, providing the resources to make our communities smarter and stronger. Let’s support them, not the short-term Haslam gas-guzzling express.
Added: via a comment by Coble on B’s post, I learned that the idea for what we’re jokingly referring to as “Jobs Party Buses” came from former Governor Phil Bredesen (D). I don’t think that makes it any more sensible – Bredesen was short-sighted in suggesting it, and Haslam was short-sighted in not killing it. B addresses that aspect a bit in a comment over at Pith.
Listen, I’m a lefty, super pro-choice, feminist. The TNDP has treated folks like me and B like we’re nonexistent in just about every election forever, and couldn’t get talking points out to people like us to blog on them on a non-Friday-afternoon if their lives depended on it. For my part, I never even saw that Ds had said anything about it until Silence himself linked to something, because I don’t really care about their half-hearted press statements that miss the real mistakes of the initiative. I care what they’re doing – and that is using resources in a way I don’t think is very smart or sustainable, as detailed above.