BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY
BY MARY LEE HARVEY DIRCKS
Goodwill Industries provides job training and educational opportunities for people to bridge the gap between public assistance and self-sufficiency. Many people don’t realize that it’s much more than a place to donate unwanted items or hunt for second-hand treasures. “When most people hear the name Goodwill, they think of our retail stores,” says Linda Kizzier, vice president of employment and training at Goodwill Industries. “Our retail operations support Goodwill’s mission to change lives and strengthen communities through education, training and work.” Goodwill’s training programs serve more than 2,700 people each year, placing more than 500 individuals in permanent jobs in Omaha and surrounding areas. “Everything Goodwill does centers around helping people find employment,” Kizzier adds.
The retail side of Goodwill funds training, education and career development, as well as job placement opportunities for the unemployed, underemployed and disabled. “We sit down one-on-one with every person who enrolls in our programs,” Kizzier says. Case managers help participants map out their desired career path to include realistic steps to move them in the direction of their goals and offer assistance to overcome employment barriers.
“Many of our adult clients have a high school diploma, but their literacy skills are below what they should be to be competitive for jobs that they have an aptitude for,” Kizzier notes. The Customer Connect Program, which trains participants in call center customer service skills, specifically addresses literacy deficiencies through academic testing and tutoring. The program is provided in partnership with Metropolitan Community College (MCC) and funded in part through a grant from the Department of Education. “A case manager works with everyone in the class to provide that additional academic support and to make sure they are on target to meet all the criteria to get that specialist diploma,” Kizzier says.