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Goodwill's commercial services aim to overcome job barriers
Herald-Times - 10/8/2019
Oct. 8--A new option for those faced with traditional barriers to employment is up and running on the west side of Bloomington under a familiar name.
Goodwill launched its 9,000-square-foot commercial services facility at 2115 S. Yost Ave. in August to provide businesses with outsourced manufacturing and packaging solutions. Kent Kramer, president and CEO of Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana, said during a Monday open house that the mission-driven operations in Bloomington are already helping 14 people increase their independence and reach their potential.
The organization employs workers who may otherwise not get a job because of their criminal history, disability or lack of a high school diploma.
"In today's economy, sometimes it's hard to find somebody who will give you a chance," Kramer said.
In August, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development reported the state's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 18 months. Monroe County's unadjusted unemployment rate in August was 3.6%, a 0.6 percentage point reduction from August 2018. Kramer said the Indiana Chamber of Commerce projects 1 million skilled jobs will go unfilled over the next decade, so populations that may have previously been overlooked will become valuable resources.
Jim Humphrey, vice president of Goodwill Commercial Services, said he's hoping to increase the number of employees at the Bloomington facilities to 25 by the end of 2021. He envisions the Bloomington facilities employing 40 to 50 people. Work may take the form of assembling diagnostic kits or small electronics. An employee might learn to operate metal stamping equipment as they construct wind deflectors for Goodwill's automotive clients, or they may work off-site in a janitorial or landscaping position.
Allison Transmission and Cook Medical are just two of the companies that use Goodwill's contracting services to address work that's not quite at the core of what they do. For example, workers aren't making stints or catheters for Cook Medical. Instead, they're cleaning or constructing the packaging for those medical devices.
During Monday's open house, Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Group Inc. and Cook Medical, said Goodwill Commercial Services isn't philanthropy; it's a business, and a good one at that.
"It gives us an asset other communities don't have," Yonkman said. "It's good business that's good for the community."
One program designed to further facility's mission is called New Beginnings. The six-month program offers a paid internship to people with a non-violent, non-sexual criminal history. Participants work 40 hours a week and are taught supplementary skills, such as budgeting or credit management.
The Indiana Department of Correction defines recidivism as a return to incarceration within three years of being released. A recent IDOC study found nearly 34% of offenders released in 2015 were recommitted by 2018, for either a new conviction or a violation of post-release supervision. Humphrey said Goodwill Commercial Services workers who take part in the New Beginnings program have an average recidivism rate of less than 4%.
"They've made a mistake," Humphrey said. "We want to be a part of them reentering the community."
Full-time employment with Goodwill Commercial Services also includes the same benefits one might expect from working at a Goodwill retail store. Humphrey said that includes such things as health and dental insurance. Wages range from $8.50 to $12 per hour, he said, and there's the potential to advance through multiple job grades.
Perhaps more unique to the format is what Kramer calls a "hand-raising" mentality. He said, if someone raises their hand and says they'd like to learn the skills to move on from Goodwill Commercial Services to pursue a specific skilled trade, they'll work to support that.
Whereas another company might operate according to the margins of their contracts, Kramer said Goodwill Commercial Services looks at a different kind of return. Employee turnover is often a costly negative for other businesses, but for Kramer, moving employees on to bigger and better things is just another kind of "win."
If someone moves on, he said there are plenty more people waiting for the kind of skills training and work Goodwill Commercial Services provides.
"At this point, there is always someone waiting in the wings," Kramer said.
Contact Kurt Christian at 812-331-4350 or email@example.com.
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