Goodwill Helps Reduce Local Unemployment

By Rachel Moore
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO — With unemployment being a constant hot topic in the news, Goodwill contributes to the solution by helping those in need find jobs.

As of March 2017, unemployment in the United States hovers around 4.5 percent. According to the Arkansas Economist, Arkansas’ unemployment reached a new record low in February: 3.7 percent. Goodwill continues work to help employ more. In 2016 Goodwill reportedly helped 4,547 Arkansans obtain jobs.

A graph showing the unemployment numbers. It narrows down from a broad, overall look at the United States, to the State of Arkansas, then to the town of Jonesboro.

“We help people with barriers to employment like prior incarceration or disability; working one-on-one with those persons to determine interests, skills, and abilities. By definition what we do helps reduce the unemployment rate in Arkansas,” said Leslie Heizman, the vice president of Community Engagement at Goodwill in Little Rock.

Forklift driver, administrative assistant and environmental services technician are just a few of the job positions Goodwill has helped fill.

In the state, there are 34 Goodwill stores but only 22 have Career Centers. Both the Jonesboro and Paragould Goodwills feature Career Centers.

The career center features a director and a few workers that work directly with employers and one-on-one with those in need. They work together to get to the root of the unemployment issue.

Many times the issue comes down to disabilities. Almost 70 percent of people with disabilities in Arkansas are unemployed; Goodwill works to combat this by providing the necessary tools to enable them to work. It loans wheelchairs, crutches and other equipment through HELP – Health Equipment Loan Program. If the item needed is available, it will be loaned out.

A lack of education causes another barrier preventing Arkansans from gaining employment. Arkansas is the third poorest state in the nation and it reflects on the education system: In the state, around 300,000 adults don’t have a high school diploma.

This sometimes prevents residents from obtaining even an entry-level job, so Goodwill developed a solution called The Excel Center at Goodwill. Starting in fall 2017, this adult charter high school will give anyone over 19 the opportunity to earn a high school diploma at no cost. Goodwill will work with Pulaski Tech and its Trade School to guide students towards a life-long career.

Derek Watson, a data specialist for Goodwill Career Center in Jonesboro runs numbers on unemployment data for the state. (photo by Rachel Moore)

Other programs Goodwill offers to help the community and lower unemployment include Books 4 Kids and Bright Futures, The Academy at Goodwill, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Employment & Training Provider, Horizons, Re-entry Beyond Disabilities and Transitional Employment Opportunity.

“Helping Arkansans with a hand-up, not a handout, is our priority,”  Heizman said.

Goodwill has managed to help so many people they had to hire a data specialist, Derek Watson. He works at the Career Center in Jonesboro and manages the statistics to help the company guarantee successful programs.

“My job is run all the numbers regarding employment and the work we do,” Watson said.

For those in search of a job who may not want to explore all the programs, Goodwill also regularly display job ads on its front doors and inside the stores.