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Goodwill job training program gets boost from feds

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Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County earmarks

Evette Lewis talks about how Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County helped her re-enter the workforce, two decades after she was disabled. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – While many know Goodwill as the nonprofit clothing resale store, one of its most important roles in the community is workforce development through its Job Resource Centers.

The Goodwill of Delaware & Delaware County has one such center in each of Delaware’s counties – Wilmington, Dover and Bridgeville – where jobseekers can come to brush up on soft skills, interview techniques and digital literacy training. For hundreds of people each year, the services are a gateway toward employment, often coming out of high school, incarceration or disability.

On Thursday, Goodwill celebrated more than $1.1 million in new federal funding for the program through a congressional earmark obtained in December’s spending bill.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester Congress

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said earmarks like Goodwill’s can help communities move needed programs forward. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, joined by Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, celebrated the allocation, noting that modern workforce development programs can give people the skills to compete in the job market.

“There are a lot of myths about people not wanting to work. People want to work. People want that dignity. Goodwill provides that opportunity,” Blunt Rochester said.

One such worker highlighted Thursday was Evette Lewis, a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran who came to Goodwill to brush up on her digital skills – or as she put it, “When I left we had Windows 3 and I came back to Windows 10.”

“Goodwill allowed me to work at my own pace. They did not discourage me, nor did they look at my disability. They looked and saw a woman that was trying to come back into the workforce after 23 years,” Lewis said.

Today, Lewis is the coordinator of Goodwill’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, which engages those over age 55 to work part-time and learn new skills.

Goodwill of Delaware & Delaware County CEO Colleen Morrone said the federal funding would allow the nonprofit to upgrade its Job Resource Centers, which helped place more than 600 people into jobs around the state last year and reached tens of thousands of people in programming.

Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County CEO Colleen Morrone

Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County CEO Colleen Morrone said the funding would support new job training outreach. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The funding will also extend its job training outreach to its 12 retail locations around the state. Goodwill plans to construct quiet spaces in all retail stores where interested jobseekers can sit and virtually meet with a trainer, who could recommend the right services to advance their job search.

“This grant is going to allow us to develop this whole technology to push out there to meet people where they are and when they want the services,” Morrone said, adding that retail locations are open seven days a week and with evening hours, making them accessible to everyone.

Goodwill is also now working with the Delaware Workforce Development Board to place candidates into more specified training programs for target industries, including health care, transportation and hospitality.

For decades, Goodwill’s Job Resource Centers have provided a connection to employment, and Morrone noted how its role has adapted as well. She recalled after the Great Recession how a Wilmington job fair for Shoprite cashier roles saw hundreds of people line up outside of Goodwill’s doors. Today, job openings far outpace prospective workers.

“We’re working on ways that we can deliver services better, faster, more efficiently, where people want them and where they need them versus maybe in a physical location,” she said, noting increasingly that means online.

Goodwill is also a major employer on its own with nearly 1,000 employees, including those placed through its Temporary Staffing Services program. Morrone noted that the nonprofit is not immune from the workforce shortage, with open positions in its retail stores around the state.

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