Many Austin residents have stopped by one of the Goodwill Industries of Central Texas locations to peruse the stores or drop off some clothes or housewares. Most of those visitors have a passing sense of the various community-support initiatives Goodwill provides across 15 counties here.
Michael Willard oversees a key cross-section of those programs. As Goodwill’s chief of mission services in Central Texas, he directs the group’s workforce-development and community-engagement departments.
Willard spent eight years as head of the Austin branch of Habitat for Humanity before joining Goodwill in 2011. Since then, he has focused primarily on Goodwill’s job training, job-placement and community-outreach services — three of its primary missions.
He recently shared some of his thoughts about Goodwill’s local programs and how those efforts fit within Austin’s economy and its other job-training initiatives.
American-Statesman: Job training has been at the heart of Goodwill’s mission for decades. What types of programs do you offer in Austin and who do you aim to serve?
Willard: Last year, Goodwill Industries of Central Texas was proud to serve over 13,000 Central Texans, and created 2,511 job placements. The programs we offer are diverse yet pragmatic — we work to create programs and training modules for fields that are in demand, and tailor the curriculum and schedule to work best for our for our clients.
Through our Good Careers Academy, we focus on job trainings in administration, information technology, certified nursing assistant (CNA), and in certain cases supplementing these training with programs to help our clients receive their GED, the first major milestone to career success.
Our Goodwill Resource Center … works closely with Workforce Solutions to train clients to actively job search, learn interview skills, and leverage networks to obtain the best job possible for them. Our approach to career success is holistic; our clients have the drive to success – we empower them to put all of the pieces together to make this happen.
While we are proud to serve a diverse array of individuals in the Central Texas area, we have four populations in which we try to target our services: those with a criminal history; those who are homeless or struggling with homelessness; those who have a lack of education, and/or those with a disability.
Austin is home to a variety of job-training programs and institutions. What differentiates Goodwill’s, and how do you see your programs fitting within the universe of all the Austin-area programs?
Our training programs flourish due to the passionate case managers, trainers and staff we have working in support of our mission, and as importantly, our strong relationships with other organizations throughout the Central Texas area. We understand our role in our clients’ success lies in creating a path to a lifelong connection to work. To this end, our successes measured by the true connection our client creates in job or career in their chosen field after working with us.
We are the stepping stone to additional educational opportunities for our clients. Our partnerships with academic institutions such as Austin Community College and St. Edwards University, among others, allow our clients to take fundamental skills they learn through our programs, and utilize them towards an education in a more formalized setting, receiving course credits that can applied to a college degree or a trade certification.
Why is that place in the Austin training ecosystem so important and do you have an example that helps illustrate that?
With over 60 years of service to the Central Texas area, we have established ourselves in a variety of fields, not just traditional one of work and education. We have fostered sustainable partnerships with H-E-B, Doubletree Hotels, St. David’s Healthcare, even the city of Austin just to name a few.
We strive to give an individual that first building block to construct their career success. If it’s in the health care field, we provide a CNA training, if it’s an administrative role, we provide clerical and office management training, and so on. By empowering our clients to proactively enter into a long-term career, we are working to ensure that this individual not only works in his or her chosen field, but systematically advances as well.
This multi-faceted framework of our mission services gives us the ability to create a positive impact throughout the Central Texas community in a variety of ways and with a myriad number of organizations, collectively increasing the work and positive impact each entity can create. It is a true example of synergy, and we are proud to be a part of this process.
Beyond aiding the individual, how do you see these programs benefitting the regional economy and community as a whole?
In a word: collaboration. Empowering one individual to be successful in their career creates this positive ripple effect. We have found an individual given another chance to succeed has the tools to be a successful member of the work force, thereby helping his or her employer succeeds, his or her family succeeds, and the community he or she lives and works in succeed.
Not many are aware, but we serve 15 counties in the Central Texas region. As these counties experience explosive growth, there is a need for a work force to meet that demand. Our relationships with our business and community partners allows for a consistent flow of high quality employees to be trained and ready to work, thereby positively impacting our business partners in these burgeoning areas through a larger workforce, increased visibility in the community, and more robust financial output. This strategy has allowed us to make a significant economic impact in Central Texas — $182.2 million in 2012.
This benefit to our service areas is seen in a variety of capacities, from an individual directly trained and placed through our programs to business partners benefitting from By working together to create a workforce that is adequately trained, dedicated, and genuinely connected to his or her profession, we are ensuring that the communities we partner with work together, and work for each other. And that, to us, is a true mark of our success as an organization and member of our Central Texas community.
About this series: Statesman Sunday Interview
There are many interesting and insightful people in the Central Texas business community. On Sundays, the American-Statesman business team brings you in-depth interviews with some of them, focusing on topics that matter to our community. To nominate someone for the Statesman Sunday Interview, email Statesman business editor Barry Harrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.