Johnson Praises Goodwill Workforce Training Efforts

YOUNGSTOWN – During a tour Monday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6, praised Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries for its workforce development initiatives, including its Mobile Technical and Instruction Vehicle

As Johnson toured Goodwill’s store and offices located on Belmont Avenue, he learned about the organization’s information technology certificate program and digital education efforts at the offices and on wheels. He also stepped inside the Mobile Technical and Instruction Vehicle, or Motive, which brings digital education and workforce development to area residents who need it.

“The IT training and eye screenings on this that is going out to rural America and taking services where people can’t get to them otherwise is pretty remarkable,” Johnson said after exiting the large touring bus-styled vehicle. “There’s a lot more going on here than most people realize. Several hundred people are employed here, but the services they offer and workforce development and the training — it’s not just a place to go in and buy used retail items.”

Since its launch Oct. 11, nearly 1,200 people have received training from the mobile unit, according to Denis Robinson Sr., senior director of human resources and workforce development, Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries. The Youngstown area branch serves five counties, including Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio, and Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania.

Emily Turner, executive director for Ohio Association of Goodwill Industries, said she is impressed with the workforce development efforts at Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries. While Turner was aware of digital vehicles being used throughout the country, this is the first in Ohio, she said.

“It’s great inside,” she said. “Who’s not going to have a good time in a mobile home?”

Throughout the state, Goodwill services are tailored to the territory’s needs and populations, she explained.

Columbus, for example, works with a large population of developmentally disabled folks and its workforce development programming isn’t as vibrant as Youngstown’s, Turner said. In Wooster, the workforce development programming is a large focus and many involved are recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds.

Youngstown Area Goodwill CEO Mark Goloja walked Johnson through the offices, store and back shop area where dozens of people were working. Some workers sort incoming donations or hang items, while others carefully disassemble usable parts of chairs that can be recycled.

Goodwill is working to secure more contracts for workers, such as making belts and expanding work being done on chairs, Goloja said.

“Having the congressman here is great because we get to show and tell more people what we do here,” Goloja said. “We look forward to expanding our workforce development programs.”

Johnson recognized John Hahn for being the first learner to finish the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program at Youngstown Goodwill.

Both Beverly Bryant and Alyssa Mraz started in the Work Adjustment program on Oct. 14. They work at Goodwill from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during the week to process donations, do laundry, sort and hang donated clothing and more, earning minimum wage.

Bryant is 68 years old and looking to get back into the workforce after her husband passed away in June, she said. Now a widow, she needs the income, she said. Being out of the workforce requires her to sharpen her job and employer relation skills, receive technology and computer training, enhance her soft skills and create a resume.

“I haven’t worked in about 15 or more years,” she said. “My husband took care of me so I worked at home.”

Bryant had an interview at Mom’s Meals and is hopeful to start working there soon, she said.

Mraz graduated from Youngstown State University with a degree in social work. She didn’t have the money to take her state licensure yet, but hopes to after gaining full-time employment, she said.

Besides the training and a session called ‘Job Club,’ which is set aside for workers to review available jobs, career coaches are available and work with folks for up to a year after being hired. Mraz will work for Windsor House with the activity director and hopes to take her social work license test soon, she said.

The programs and opportunities for mobile technology training are important to workforce development and will increase the area’s ability in workforce advancements while helping to close a growing skills gap, U.S. Rep. Johnson said.

“Workforce development is one of the biggest issues and most consistent mentioned issues that I get in rural America and here along the river because employers cannot find enough people,” Johnson said.

Having more jobs than people to fill those jobs is a first in his lifetime as a working adult, he said.

“We need to give every American every opportunity to pursue their dreams and ambitions on their own terms and letting them know what’s available and giving them that entry level starting point,” Johnson said. “Often times all it takes is igniting a spark and the next thing you know you’ve got a fire.”

Pictured above: U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, toured Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries with Denis Robinson Sr., senior director of human resources and workforce development (left), and CEO Mark Goloja.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.