Success Story: Josh
Homeless and recently graduated from high school, Josh came to Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids looking for stability. He was bouncing from shelter to shelter, searching for a sustainable job and steady housing. That’s when he heard about Goodwill’s ASSETS program, a program for young adults with disabilities transitioning from school into employment.
It wasn’t an easy start, external factors were taking a toll on Josh. He felt dejected and was beginning to disconnect. Josh stated, “At one point I got really down with everything in my outside life. That’s when my career coach started to fight for me personally. Reaching out in different ways and eventually we connected. I was motivated again. I was reminded that there is more to life than giving up and that’s what I had been doing, just giving up.”
With this new drive, Josh began to reapply himself. He sent his resume to several organizations, but with little work experience, he wasn’t having much success. Josh was feeling like he was hitting a wall. That is, until Josh’s career coach set up a temporary work experience within Goodwill’s ecommerce department, ShopGoodwill. The paid work experience was three months long to help Josh build his resume.
Not only did Josh gain skills and experience, his positive attitude and work ethic led to a job offer from Goodwill. It has now been two years since Josh started working in the ecommerce department. He recalled, “At the end of my temporary position, my bosses sat me down and told me I was a perfect fit for the department. Thanks to Goodwill, I received so much help. It was a long process. I was coming from a distance and there were times my career coach had to pick me up, so I could make it to certain places. They even gave me bus tickets. I can honestly say to this day, Goodwill has been one of the best things that has happened to me.” Ecstatic to be fully employed, Josh was able to help his family get a home and out of their previous situation.
The ASSETS program provided him with the guidance and connections to succeed. Remembering this time, he told us, “They were always working with me. I found the housing on my own, but they were checking and asking if I needed anything. It actually gave me the inner strength to keep going.”
Josh now works in the jewelry division of the ecommerce department. His career coach boasted, “Josh is a person who makes everyone’s day better simply by his positive attitude and kindness. He has shown me that no barrier is too big to accomplish.” His supervisors, agreeing with this, told us, “He does every task he’s given extremely well and maintains a great attitude while completing them. We are very lucky to have him.”
Success Story: Brad
Times were very tough for Brad in 2014. His wife passed away, he needed to move out of the home they shared, and he was exhausted from struggling with substance abuse. Seeking change, Brad entered treatment and set a goal to get a job. A family member then told Brad about the many ways Goodwill helps individuals seeking employment, so Brad attended a Goodwill information session to find the program that was right for him.
Brad enrolled in the Achieve program, which is fully funded by Goodwill’s retail stores. This no-cost program assists individuals with gaining the skills to attain and maintain long-term employment to be self-sufficient members of society. While in Achieve, Brad worked on barrier reduction, communication skills, self-confidence, handling stress, working with others, job search techniques, resume creation, interview practice and much more. Brad’s punctuality and active participation in the workshops demonstrated to the Achieve program staff he was serious about gaining employment.
When Brad was ready to look for work, he met with the Achieve program career coaches to identify employment opportunities. He shared his concerns with them, “I have a felony conviction and that isn’t helpful, and I lack work history.” Brad needed to find a job at a company located on the bus line and open to hiring people with criminal backgrounds. Brad and his career coaches were able to identify a Goodwill business partner that met these criteria and aligned with his skills and interests. Goodwill’s partnership with this business opened the door for Brad and eliminated his concerns about his age, lack of work history and criminal background.
Brad has been employed at his warehouse position for over a year now. Brad’s employer stated, “It was clear that Brad was committed to work by the effort he put in at Goodwill’s Achieve program. Our relationship with Goodwill gives us the opportunity to hire quality people that we might not otherwise meet.” Brad states his job is perfect for him and he is happy there. He is grateful for the assistance he received along the way. Brad said “I tell other people about Goodwill. The Achieve program was beneficial, it was good that I could go through the program first; it prepared me for working. I appreciate what everyone has done for me. The staff were all very polite, motivational and encouraging. I liked everybody and everything we went through was very informative and helpful, and it was a good start to getting me out of bed and getting on a schedule.”
Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids’ Project Now Program is funded by the Department of Labor. Its overarching goal is to reduce recidivism and break the cycle of crime, thus making communities safer. Justice involved individuals age 25 and up who live in high- crime, high-poverty areas are provided an array of services to assist them in becoming responsible, law-abiding citizens. Each participant is provided a Career Coach that starts with building a strong, supportive relationship. Services include various assessments, career exploration, strength and barrier identification, employability classes, short and long-term career planning, and goal setting. A variety of free job trainings resulting in an industry recognized credential are available as well as assistance in pursuing apprenticeship opportunities. The program provides job placement assistance and follow-up services for one year. Needs-related supports, incentives, and stipends are also built into the program to assist participants as they work toward economic self-sufficiency.
MISSION IN the HOUSE
Many Goodwill employees are faced with multiple challenges. When examining the workforce, it become evident, there needed to be an intervention offered to increase the likelihood of these individuals achieving economic self-sufficiency. The Mission Integration program provides access to a Workforce Development Career Coach to walk alongside of Goodwill employees to develop and implement an individualized plan. This is executed through self-exploration leading to a higher level of insight, and increased readiness for change, and more informed choices in their journey. Activities may include skill/interest assessments, career exploration, soft skills development, goal creation with scheduled follow up to increase accountability, resume writing and interview coaching, assistance accessing and be successfully completing various trainings, workshops around leadership, and job placement/promotion assistance within Goodwill and the greater community. All activities are driven by the individual based on their strengths, challenges, interests, preferences, and long-term professional goals.