MN Senators Get a Front-row Seat to the Goodwill® Mission

auto 300x200A few weeks ago, I wrote about one of the highlights of my job — working to bring Goodwill® program participants to Washington, D.C., to share their stories with lawmakers. This week, Deanna Smiley Gulliford, a colleague from Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota (St. Paul) shared a success story noting that her team was recently able to bring the lawmakers to the program participants. This is just one of many examples of how by touring a Goodwill agency, lawmakers and other stakeholders are able to see our mission in action!

Career Pathways Celebrated, Demonstrated

The St. Paul Goodwill-Easter Seals was privileged to welcome U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to our construction and automotive training facility in St. Paul. The senators visited to see the training in action and to better understand the model of career pathways offered to program participants in partnership with community and technical colleges. The visit provided a great opportunity to highlight the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its integrated approach to education and training.

“The workplace and skills that are needed has been changing rapidly,” Franken said. “I was very intrigued by the partnership between community programs, technical colleges and businesses that you’ve developed. I’m so eager to hear from you today.”

A number of public and private partners were involved in the visit and spoke to the power of the Goodwill-Easter Seals career pathway model. The agency offers several industry-specific training and education courses to help workers who gain recognized credentials and college credits. The visit showcased proven and innovative partnerships between the community-based organization and community and technical colleges.

In discussing the new workforce law, Franken said, “The biggest part of WIOA is training people for jobs that exist today” by aligning education and businesses to help diminish the skills gap. “Community and technical colleges are going to be a much more important part of our education and training system.”

Franken Harkin Goodwill event 2014“Young people, African–Americans, people with disabilities and veterans … they are the human capital, the human currency of workforce development,” said Jeremy Hanson Willis, deputy commissioner for workforce development, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “[Goodwill-Easter Seals] are the folks that created this model, and those disparities are being addressed.”

Goodwill-Easter Seals participants also had a chance to tell the senators about their experience with the program and how their lives have changed.

“Coming to Goodwill-Easter Seals was a gift,” said Miyo Alexander, a recent automotive technician student who is starting his own business. “It gave me the opportunity to solve some of my problems and change what needed to happen in the world.”

Joined by the senators were St. Paul College President Rassoul Dastmozd, Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College President Tim Wynes, and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.