In 2006, the Long Beach Goodwill’s workforce development committee charged Ben Espitia, director of workforce development, with developing a training program with growth opportunity that could meet the needs of the local workforce industry. He determined that the lowest hanging fruit in the community was in the health care industry.
Soon after, Espitia attended a Long Beach health care summit where he met the principal of the Long Beach School for Adults. After discussing common goals, the two organizations decided to partner. The Goodwill now works with the school and with local occupational training facilities to prepare its participants for entry-level health care careers with high growth potential and jobs that lead to economic self-sufficiency. In addition to providing participants with tuition, the Goodwill helps support their transportation and equipment needs, as well as State of California certification fees.
In its first year, seven residents enrolled and four graduated. Over the next two years, the Goodwill not only added more cohorts but also increased the class size. Between 2008 and 2012, nearly 900 people have been trained through this program.
The program is an 11-week program combining classroom instruction with hands on clinical training. These students in cohorts of 10-20 people receive the clinical training by Long Beach School for Adults instructors with weekly tests. They then attend an employer’s breakfast — set up “speed dating” style — that allows them to meet one-on-one with employers looking to hire. This is how Rachal Underwood found her current job within two weeks of completing the program.
After relocating back to Los Angeles from Atlanta with her 2-year-old son, Underwood was unable to find work in the legal field, and was willing to try something new. She came to Long Beach Goodwill via the Walmart Foundation-funded Beyond Jobs program and entered into the health care training program. She now works as a home health aide for the In-Home Supportive Services and will soon complete her vocational nursing program in May.
“I like to help people; I like to put a smile on people’s face. I want to be there to encourage a person in a down moment, and give them support. This program gave me all of those resources to be able to stand on my own two feet. It’s been a true blessing. I would definitely say that things are looking up,” Underwood said.
The breakfast is equally beneficial for employers.
Fredy Dominguez of senior care facility Attentive Home Care said that “Graduates of Goodwill are the best that we have hired so far because they not only want to work—they have the heart and the passion to do it. They are committed and we keep them for the long term, which makes it easier. There’s not a high turnover. They go above and beyond. What Goodwill is doing is unbelievable.”
In addition to Certified Nursing Assistant and Home Health Aide training, the Goodwill is now experimenting with expansion into tracks on medical insurance coding and billing as well as phlebotomy training.
At the end of the sessions, the program holds a graduation for participants. “Not only is it really warming to see the folks who are graduating through our training program, it’s the excitement of family and friends who attend,” Espitia said. “We’re not impacting one individual; we’re impacting so many other people around them.”