By Jennifer Milliren, Business Development Coordinator, Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region
The gap between eager, young workers and their access to living-wage jobs is one that is felt by many youths in rural Southwest Washington – especially those struggling to rise out of poverty.
The Industrial Training Program, created in partnership between Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region and North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), a paper mill in Longview, WA, helps to bridge this gap and introduce a new generation of skilled laborers to the community. Designed to meet the needs of both the business and the community, the Industrial Training Program creates access to gainful, in-demand employment opportunities, builds local leaders, and enhances employability of area youth through real-world work experience.
During the 6-month paid training program, youth aged 18-24 gain industry skills and certifications as they train in various departments throughout the paper mill. In addition to gaining real-world work experience, interns are paired with a site mentor and receive regular critical feedback on their performance. Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region supports their experience by providing consistent case management, resource navigation, and professional development workshops.
The Industrial Training Program, piloted in June of 2017, has introduced 48 youth to the industrial sector. Of these 48 interns, 100% have exited to employment, apprenticeship, military service, or post-secondary education.
Victoria Skinner, Director of Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region’s Work Opportunity Center of Cowlitz County, designed the training program to meet the objectives of both NORPAC and Goodwill®. “I feel like the program is highly relevant and it is specifically focused on its objective,” says Skinner. “This work-based learning model allows Goodwill to do what it’s good at: case management and promoting diversity; and instead of us assuming what the industry needs, the employer takes lead.”
“I really love the program,” NORPAC Team Development Manager and Site Mentor Mark Alston comments. “I’ve had the opportunity to see young people come into manufacturing, with little or no experience, and excel in their learning and abilities. They have become extremely motivated and many have transitioned to NORPAC employment. It’s been very rewarding to watch their growth.”
One recent graduate, Cal Byrnes, acknowledged how impactful the program was for him. “I enjoyed feeling like a part of something big and seeing the results of my hard work… making a difference at the mill,” Byrnes says of the experience. “The internship went better than I could have imagined, and I’m extremely excited to start a career at NORPAC.” Byrnes was among 7 interns who were recently offered employment at NORPAC following their internship.
The Industrial Training Program serves as just one example of Goodwill’s potential for partnering with local businesses; together offering a hand up so their communities can thrive, and demonstrating just how much jobs change lives.