Goodwill Industries International, Inc.

    How Goodwill Prepares People With Disabilities for Employment

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    Examples include:

    Project SEARCH:

    Goodwill organizations that operate Project SEARCH programs help prepare young people with significant disabilities for success in competitive integrated employment.

    Project SEARCH is a one-year training and education program immersed in the workplace, leading to employment for individuals with disabilities.

    Modeled on a nationally recognized program developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Project SEARCH provides students ages 18-21 with real-life work experience based on the individual’s preferences and interests.

    UPMC Project SEARCH prepares students for competitive employment by teaching:

    • Specific job skills.
    • Job readiness skills.
    • Work etiquette/code of conduct.
    • Work social skills.
    • Interviewing skills.

    Students learn basic skills such as stocking, assembling, sanitizing, cleaning, customer service, and how to transport equipment and supplies. Students move through rotations to support various functions. Rotations may include departments such as central distribution, dietary, environmental services, pharmacy, radiology and respiratory.
    The Project SEARCH instructor, job trainer, and department mentor all work together to train and coach the student. Tasks are modeled and the student is expected to learn to work independently.

    Students gain work experience and develop a variety of marketable skills through rotations. Outcomes include increased independence, confidence and self-esteem. Most importantly, all students leave with either a job at the host site, a job in a related business, or with a team to assist them in obtaining employment.

    Some Goodwill organizations provide scholarships for students with disabilities who do not qualify for government-funded rehabilitation programs.

    Employment Path Services (Facility and Community):

    Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette (Portland, OR) has long-term support (LTS) staff that provide participants with support to obtain experience and develop general skills that contribute to competitive employability in the general workforce.

    Prior to beginning employment path services, there measurable goals are outlined in a career development plan to support exploration of integrated community employment. These services are offered with a time limit outlined in an individual support plan (ISP) and are expected to occur over an ISP year (or less) with specific goals/outcomes tracked monthly by LTS staff.

    • Assisted Daily Living (ADL) and Independent ADL support are provided as an incidental component of the employment service, as is transportation.
    • LTS staff develop SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) action plans with the participants and their supports planning teams through an ongoing person-centered planning process.
    • LTS staff help participants develop general employment skills through facility training. This training has a community component and includes assessment to determine progress. All training that participants receive is applicable to individual integrated jobs. (The training is not meant to be used as long-term volunteerism or work without pay in a for-profit enterprise.) Training may include skills in:
      • Food handling, restaurant general safety.
      • Computers (Microsoft Office suite, internet navigation).
      • Janitorial, hospitality basics.
      • Nursery basics (gardening).
      • Soft skills:
      • Interview preparation, job-seeking skills, dressing for success.
      • Communication, developing workplace relationships.


    Time-limited (3 months), contractual services with the Office of Developmental Disabilities Services (ODDS) includes comprehensive, person-centered and community-based employment planning support to better inform participants seeking individualized jobs in a competitive workplace and to create a discovery profile.

    • A discovery profile is a comprehensive and person-centered report produced as an outcome of discovery that represents the participant and provides information to better inform employment service planning and job development activities.
    • LTS staff provide one-on-one services for approximately 30 hours over three months to complete this service.
    • Activities include work-/volunteer-related activities to define:
      • Strengths, interests, abilities, skills experiences and support needs of the participant.

    Supported Employment:

    In 2016, the Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette (Portland, OR) LTS team took the lead as a vocational provider in complying with the Governor’s Executive Order 13-04 and Employment-First Principles by offering new service opportunities for its participants. These services are described below:

    • Job Development LTS staff provide support to participants obtaining competitive integrated community jobs. Résumé writing, investigating a variety of jobs based on interest, building relationships with community businesses, job shadowing, informal and formal interviews are some of the ways they assist their participants. These steps aid LTS staff and participants to identify community employment goals and objectives as well as focus staff training to help participants overcome challenges finding employment. Their staff also help educate employers in numerous ways.
    • Job Coaching:LTS staff provide support to help participants maintain jobs in competitive, integrated employment settings, including customized employment and self-employment. LTS staff support participants from the first day of work until it is determined that job coaching services can begin to fade because of on-the-job natural supports and the participant’s ability to perform essential assigned tasks independently.

    Employment First:

    Rappahannock Goodwill Industries (RGI) believes in employment over other alternatives. This is the notion of Employment First for people with significant disabilities. Employment Service Organizations are being encouraged to focus on well-coordinated ongoing supports that make long-term job success possible. The principles of Employment First have been articulated as:

    • Being the first and preferred outcome for working-age youth and adults with disabilities, including those with complex and significant disabilities, for whom working in the past has been limited, or has not traditionally occurred;
    • Using typical or customized employment techniques to secure membership in the workforce, where employees with disabilities are included on the payroll of a competitive business or industry or are self-employed business owners;
    • Where the assigned work tasks offer at least minimum or prevailing wages and benefits;
    • And where typical opportunities exist for integration and interactions with co-workers without disabilities, with customers, and/or the general public.

    RGI has embraced the concept of Employment First, with four caveats:

    • Informed Choice on the part of the individual being served is paramount;
    • Pay for performance is an economic reality in the business world. Therefore, long-term employment of any low producer, with disability or not, is not likely to be tolerated by the employer for significant numbers of workers, if any. Similarly, they believe in equal pay for equal work. All employees, regardless of any demographic factor (gender, age, disability, etc.), should be compensated in the same manner as all other persons performing comparable work in comparable positions.

    Pre-Vocational Skills Program:

    Goodwill Industries of East Texas (Tyler) created an approach to promote and teach self-sufficiency skills in the workplace. The Goodwill developed a pre-vocational training program, secured experienced retired school teachers from its local 55 and Older Program, and obtained interns from the University of Texas Health Northeast Physical Therapy Program to work with participants to improve their dexterity. The Goodwill developed an instructional classroom to prepare people with disabilities for work within the community, whether in food services, mail delivery, etc. In addition, they had licensed practitioner counselors on staff to provide therapeutic counseling. They also had a benefit counselor from the Social Security Administration to meet individually with participants and their parents/caregivers to conduct a benefits analysis and explain how many hours they can work before it impacts their benefits.

    Join us on
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    For immediate help finding a job, call:
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