The nation’s largest nonprofit jobs trainer is a household name

The organization is a workforce development nonprofit that reaches millions of people a year

You may have browsed the aisles of your local Goodwill store in hopes of finding the perfect gently-used sofa for your apartment, or maybe a pair of shoes to go with your favorite dress. What you may not know is that if you are looking for a job, the nonprofit organization can help you with that too.

Goodwill is, in fact, the largest nonprofit provider of jobs training programs and career services in the United States and Canada. Here in the U.S., there are 151 community-based, autonomous locations providing free workforce development services to anyone seeking support.

Goodwill met with 1.5 million people in person in 2019, according to the most recent data. An additional 22.4 million people participated virtually in training, virtual career fairs, and online mentoring. Demand for Goodwill workforce services accelerated during the pandemic.

The types of training programs at each site are tailored to meet community needs with respect to job opportunities and the local population. That from Sonya Francis, the senior director of mission innovation and strategy for Goodwill Industries International.

“Populations will vary from community to community, meaning some Goodwills serve heavy populations of veterans, older workers, persons with disabilities, and English language learners. Some serve heavy populations of youth and young adults,” adds Francis.

Digital Skills Training is a Passport to All Occupations

Right now, Francis says, the most used free training is digital skills training, both in-person and virtually. “We’ve recognized that this is a passport to all occupations. We created (different) levels of training, meaning that Goodwill can provide basic introductory digital skills training all the way up to advanced digital skills training that leads to a credential and better employment.”

The majority of the introductory and digital orientation programs include a suite of Microsoft or Google training, and help teach people how to do their job search online, and complete and attach a resume.

“These are skills that people need no matter what industry or what sector they’re going to enter. And in order to become resilient in today’s labor market and the market of the future, you have to have some level of digital skills training,” says Francis.

(Photo: Goodwill Industries International)

Different locations across the country also offer different, more advanced training. “In Colorado, we have a Goodwill that’s working with an employer partner bridging the gap between those people who are interested in cybersecurity training,” says Francis. “In Roanoke, Virginia we’re providing medical billing and coding as a digital skill-type training.”

Another program in Minnesota has automotive skills training among its offerings. “Graduates may test for the Automotive Service Excellence examination and enter employment as an automotive technician,” says Francis.

Francis says local employers are a vital part of the process. “Goodwill often engages employers to sit on their business advisory councils and provide intel about hiring, skills, and competencies needed for job seekers to be successful in employment,” she says.

She adds that employers sometimes participate in the design of skills training programs, participate in mock interviews, and act as guest speakers during training initiatives.

Once job training is complete, Francis notes the employers are critical when it comes to job placement. “The goal of most training initiatives is that individuals will be placed into employment in the area trained and, ideally, they’re placed in employment that leads to career advancement.”

Listen to Goodwill Industries Intl. President & CEO Steve Preston in this Work in Progress podcast

Figuring Out the Next Step on a Career Pathway

As we move toward economic recovery, Francis says, people are rethinking the types of jobs that they want. Career navigation services are available to help sort out the options.

“I think if you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, Goodwill is a great place to come and ask for support. Career coaches will sit down with you. They may do a number of assessments to find out what you’re interested in, but also what you’ve done in the past.”

(Photo: Goodwill Industries International)

“Really leveraging your previous skillsets. Sometimes we forget about those things that we’ve done as a volunteer, those things that we’re doing at home to care for our own family.

“A career navigator will pull those things out with you and help with identifying some of your goals and where you want to go. They’ll also map that out for you. Helping with connecting to some skills training programs. There may be areas that you might want to improve on to get you to your destination.”

The Holistic Approach

Francis says Goodwill addresses an array of program participants’ needs. “Wraparound supports are critical to the way that we provide services. We understand that in order to help people advance, they really need holistic services, looking at what they need and connecting them to those resources, whether that’s transportation, housing, uniforms, for example. Sometimes it’s even getting access to a device or being able to connect to the internet, as well.”

Sonya Francis, Goodwill Industries International (Photo: Goodwill Industries International)

Partnerships are important to carrying out the Goodwill mission, according to Francis, who points out that the nonprofit works with federal and local government agencies, as well as private community-based organizations.

“We refer individuals back and forth. We may refer someone to a community-based organization for wraparound supports, for example, and they may refer them to us for job search and training assistance as well. We work with a number of organizations, including our community college partners,” adds Francis.

Becoming a Better-Known Resource

“Most people are aware of our retail stores. Most people are not aware of our workforce development services,” says Francis. “Many people learn about us through word of mouth. They’ve met someone who went through a Goodwill program or Goodwill services.”

“We’re really focused this year on doing a better job of no longer being the best kept secret, but making sure people are aware and know that they can come to a Goodwill for services.”

Right now, about 67% to 70% of the people who come to Goodwill for career and job guidance find work paying an average starting hourly wage rate is about $12.

Francis says the organization wants to bump those numbers up by 2023. “We’re giving ourselves goals of 80% of the individuals who come to Goodwill looking for a job will enter employment and enter employment at an average hourly rate of $15 an hour or more.”

(Photo: Goodwill Industries International)

You can check for the free digital skills training from Goodwill here:
Goodwill also suggests this website for other basic online training: