Helping job seekers in the digital age

Learning Center volunteer Ken Kraemer

Learning Center volunteer Ken Kraemer

The PPL Learning Center has been home to an open computer lab providing resources and volunteer support to job seekers since 2005. For the last five years Ken Kraemer has been a dedicated volunteer there, driven by his desire to help people attain employment and bridge the digital divide.

Ken was laid off from his position as a mechanical engineer during the economic recession in 2008. While unemployed, Ken became practiced in using the internet and new technology as he looked for work, developing an array of skills in searching and applying for jobs. Ken began to seek out a place to share his computer-savvy and job search experience with others. Through his long-standing support of the Minnesota Literacy Council, Ken heard about the computer access lab at the PPL Learning Center. Five years later, Ken continues to be a highly-engaged volunteer whose outstanding service is an asset to PPL.

In speaking about his experience and what makes him feel accomplished at PPL, Ken says, “there is no one person or one thing that makes this work worthwhile—because it is hard to know who is actually getting a job because of something I did—it becomes important to appreciate the learning that takes place in the entire process and focus on what you can do in the time you have.”

Volunteer assisting in the Learning Center's computer lab

Volunteer assisting in the Learning Center’s computer lab

For a volunteer, the open nature of PPL’s Access Lab and high turnover of participants could be a challenge. But Ken’s positive mindset combats this and is ultimately the key to his long-term success. He believes that if he works with someone once and never sees them again it is because they either got the job they were applying for or they at least feel comfortable enough with the job application process to do it themselves the next time around.

Additionally, Ken’s interest in the way digital literacy interacts with job search and attainment is propelling conversations amongst Learning Center staff about how to best help participants navigate tedious online assessments and confusing electronic interviews. Ken goes above and beyond to help people tackle some of the challenges that the job search process includes in this digital age and to ultimately help participants not only find a job but feel confident, professional, and able to navigate the process again in the future. As Ken says, “you have to assume that you aren’t going to be there when they are taking their next steps.”

Ken works alongside nine other volunteers who serve weekly in the Computer Access Lab at the PPL Learning Center. This community of volunteers is expected to grow with the recent opening of PPL’s Hamline Station Employment Services Center, which hosts a similar lab. PPL is thrilled to extend services to job seekers in the Hamline-Midway area; please spread the word and feel free to stop by to check out the new space!

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