The economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic has led to a sharp decrease in jobs worldwide – Sri Lanka is no exception.

A Collaborative Effort

In mid-2020, the National Library of Sri Lanka (NLSL) formed a partnership with Commonwealth of Learning (COL) – Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative with the aim of helping job-seekers in Sri Lanka to upskill and reskill to enter the job market as well as reinforce job-related skills to regain employment. COL-Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative offered learners unlimited and free access to 5,000 courses designed to skill and reskill them. In June 2020, the NLSL implemented the programme under the topical theme ‘Skills Online Sri Lanka – Employed for the Unemployed’.

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The Skills Online Sri Lanka (SOSL) also collaborated jointly with diverse local organizations such as Vocational Training Institute, public libraries, private training centers, educational institutions and employers. The purpose is to bridge the skill gaps for in-demand jobs responding to employer and industry needs through directly supporting youths and adults to participate and complete skill and professional development courses offered free by the COL-Coursera learning platform.

NLSL with its partners extensively promoted the initiative and attracted unemployed people, especially youths, women and the differently abled people across the country.

Free scholarships produced 4,300 learners, earned 21,343 certificates

NLSL successfully completed the programme in March 2021, producing more than 4,300 learners who earned 21,343 certificates from world renowned universities and institutes. Remarkably, the adoption rate of the programme has been as high as 89.8% and is therefore successful. This was made possible as a result of awareness sessions conducted at various locations across the country along with virtual sessions and helpdesk activities including close coaching and mentorship. NLSL and the Colombo Public Library provided their ICT facilities including Wi-Fi to the needy learners to access learning platform and complete the courses.

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Overall, it has uplifted lives and livelihoods

The SOSLP initiative resulted in positive outcomes. It has helped unemployed to find jobs, secure jobs and improve livelihood. A wide range of courses that can tap requirements as well as the potential of learners have enabled the employed people to hone their skills – for career advancement through promotions. Some of the skilled learners have set up small business, created avenues for self-employment to sustain their livelihood. Some have even become entrepreneurs.

Nearly half of the learners enrolled into the programme were females!

This means the programme has also immensely contributed towards gender equality, thereby strengthening the female participation in the workforce.

Most importantly, with this wholehearted initiative, communities have already started noticing the value of national and public libraries as skill development centers.

As a result, COL extended its support to NLSL for another 3 years from April 2021 to March 2024 through its ‘Skills for Work’ initiative.

Contributes to SDGs

This initiative supports enhancement of Education and Training, Skills Development, Digital Literacy, Life-long Learning and contributes to several SDGs especially 4, 5, 8, 10, and 1, 3.