Rep. Larsen tours Goodwill's growing job training program

Carla Tye was living in a car with her husband and suffering from depression when she saw a sign at Goodwill for free job training programs.

Now, Tye is enrolled in Goodwill’s customer service and job preparation programs. With the help of Lydia Place, a nonprofit that aims to end homelessness in Whatcom County, Tye is moving into an apartment Sept. 8.

“My Self-esteem went up. I went from being stuck to finding resources and working toward goals,” Tye told Rep. Rick Larsen on Sept. 4.

Larsen visited Goodwill in Bellingham last week to learn more about workforce training programs.

“I can’t tell you anything more inspiring than what I just heard,” he said after hearing Tye’s story. “This is inspiring to me when I get an opportunity to see folks who are getting their noses to the grindstone.”

The Bellingham Goodwill expanded into the former Sunset Square movie theater in January. The move gave the store more retail space and allowed Goodwill’s job training program to move into an area connected to the main store making it more visible for customers like Tye.

The expansion added about 5,000 square feet to store, manager Michelle Tomasch said.

In the last year, Bellingham Goodwill’s job training programs grew by about 21 percent, said Betsy McFeely, director of community relations for 24 Goodwill stores between Tacoma and Canada.

In that time, 69 Bellingham Goodwill students found jobs, with an average hourly salary of $11.76. In the last two months, 19 people in the program got jobs.

Goodwill’s job training programs include GED courses, computer classes, English as a second language courses, and advice on resumes and cover letters.

Jim Hale, Bellingham Goodwill’s case manager and employment specialist, said case management has become a bigger part of their programs.

A few years ago, Hale and his coworkers worked with more people who needed help writing a resume and cover letter, and were hired quickly.

“Now, we’re working with people who have multiple barriers to employment,” he said. “Our case managers work one-on-one through the process of schooling, hiring, and then following up after that.”

Customer service and cashiering are the programs most popular programs.

Goodwill’s job training programs are funded by sales of donated clothing and other products at the store’s retail space.

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