Most of us think of Goodwill Industries as great place to buy second-hand clothes.
But the retail side of Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest is just one piece of a much larger picture.
“Many people know us best through our 11 retail stores in Eastern Washington and North Idaho,” said Goodwill public relations manager Diane Galloway.
“Our stores sell merchandise that comes from donated goods and which is processed for resale. But the revenues from those stores fund our real mission.”
The real mission of Goodwill, Galloway explained, “is to provide services to people with disabilities or from disadvantaged conditions so that they can reach their maximum potential within the community.”
In Goodwill terms, that means jobs.
“We employ over 370 people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho in a wide range of positions,” Galloway said, “including entry-level sorter and warehouse people, to sales associates in the stores to highly educated rehab specialists.”
There are also the more conventional career tracks, such as administrative support, accounting and management.
Training is a big part of the Goodwill focus. “We have 16 different programs from computer training for someone who wants to get back into the workforce to direct employee placement with employers,” Galloway said.
Over the years, Goodwill has built strong relationships with many Inland Northwest employers, opening the door to one more source of jobs, temporary placements.
“One of the key elements of Goodwill is that we can use the same employee contacts in the community to place an individual who hasn’t had much experience, has had an uneven work history or who is making a change in the kind of work they want to do.
“We work with a huge network of employers; sometimes they don’t need fulltime help. A lot of them came to us and asked if we could begin to provide this service.”
Last August, Goodwill opened Goodwill Temporary Services, a program designed to help clients “get in the door and prove themselves.”
Historically, Goodwill provided entry-level positions to workers with disabilities who worked in a shelter-type environment. But “Developmental disabilities are no longer our only focus,” Galloway said.
Instead, the mission now includes those returning to the workforce or entering it for the first time.
The temporary service is particularly helpful, she said, to those whose work histories are uneven, or people coming off public assistance.
“If somebody has been supporting a family with public assistance,” she said, “they need a little help to become self-sufficient.
“We also have clients for whom English is a second language; think of the barriers to employment they would face.”
There is also a type of person who is interested in making a career change, but isn’t certain what’s best for them.
“There are a lot of people who want to try out different kinds of employment,” Galloway said. “They understand the value of the work ethic and having a stable work history and they don’t want to be jumping around from job to job. If they are doing it under the auspices of Goodwill Temporary Services, they can do it without jeopardizing themselves.”
Placements run the gamut from manual labor to providing the financial services industry with workers with good computer skills. Goodwill offers the same depth and breadth of services as offered by the for-profit placement agencies, Galloway said.
“We do the same kind of skills testing and background and reference checking with our candidates for employment as any agency would do, profit or non-profit.
“We’re the only agency in this region that does a very specialized kind of testing that measures all kinds of aptitudes.”
Many of the candidates who use Goodwill’s services need training before entering the workplace, a need which is fulfilled by the training programs and an on-site computer lab.
“We also run our own on-site daycare center that’s available to our employees and to the public,” said Galloway. “So theoretically, a person could come here and have their children enrolled in daycare while take a short comprehensive skills training course and being assessed for what kind of company would be a good fit.
“Our people are skilled at finding what someone would be successful at - it’s a combination of interests and aptitudes.”
There are even opportunities to perform volunteer work in order to build up important work references.
And those who become employees of Goodwill Temporary Services enjoy the same benefits package as any Goodwill employee.
Goodwill aims to fill “the entry- and mid-level niche, which is so important to so many employers,” Galloway said. “Yet if they’re doing any volume at all, it becomes a full-time job to screen and hire those people.”
Employers who use the service will find qualified, enthusiastic recruits, Galloway said: “We don’t expect an employer to lower their standards for an employee with disadvantages.”