Hispanic-Focused Services in Georgia Help Encourage a ‘Buena Vida’

Hispanic job seekersHispanics now comprise 15 percent of the total U.S. labor force, and by 2020 that number is expected to rise to 19 percent. Despite this, many of these Hispanic workers and job seekers are not reaching their full potential.

To better serve this population, a private grant in 2010 enabled Goodwill Industries International to establish Buena Vida (Good Life), a program designed to provide education and employment services for job seekers in the Hispanic community. The grant funds the program at four Georgia Goodwills:

  • Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (Macon)
  • Goodwill of North Georgia (Atlanta)
  • Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire (Savannah)
  • Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers (Columbus).

Now in the grant’s second cycle, set through 2015, Goodwill agencies are developing their Hispanic services in surrounding communities in partnership with community organizations and institutions. The ultimate goal is to expand employment and education opportunities to Georgia’s Hispanic population.

‘Buena Vida’: Goodwill® Apoya Los Hispanos en Georgia

De la población de trabajadores en los EEUU, 15 por ciento fue hispana en 2012. Para 2020, este porcentaje aumenterá hasta 19 por ciento. Sin embargo, la comunidad hispana todavía necesita mejor accesso a servicios bilingües, recursos y formaciónes para la búsqueda de trabajo.

En 2010, una fundación privada financió la creación de un programa que se llama “Buena Vida” para aumentar los servicios educativos y entrenamiento para los hispanos. Este programa ayuda a cuatro agencias de Goodwill® en Georgia a ofrecer varios niveles de clases de ingles, oportunidades de aprender nuevas técnicas, y dirigir a los recursos comunitarios.

Fue un éxito en parte por su trabajo con otras asociaciones comunitarias como iglesias y otras organizaciónes que ayudan en la comunidad hispana.

Cada año el programa ha crecido. En 2010, el programa en Augusta servió 341 hispanos; en 2012 seis centros de carrera servieron 1,842 hispanos en el región.

Para buscar el programa cercano: http://locator.goodwill.org.

Para más información sobre Goodwill en español, visite: /espanol/.

“At the beginning, we didn’t have a lot of Hispanics coming to the Augusta center. Being bilingual and bicultural, I began engaging and reaching out to the community,” said Elsa Bustamante, Hispanic services manager at the Macon Goodwill who helped develop and helps manage the Buena Vida program.

“Some of the biggest challenges we were seeing were language barriers, unemployment and underemployment, and lack of knowledge of where to find resources. It was so important to us to make sure that they walked out of our offices knowing that we could guide them through all of our resources.”

As a trained ESL instructor, Bustamante — in partnership with community organization — established a three-level (now four-level) English as a Second Language (ESL) program at the Augusta career center and trained volunteers to continue services. She said now that many of the original students are progressing to higher levels of studying and training, obtaining “soft skills” to move into better jobs is increasingly important. These job readiness, interviewing skills, financial literacy and other training programs are designed to integrate Spanish services into existing career services.

“It’s amazing what I have seen. Before it was, ‘Who is Goodwill?’ Now we see a trusting community because we are providing them with a lot of these skills and we are listening to them,” Bustamante said.

The program’s reach has continued to grow throughout the grant’s lifecycle. In 2009, the Macon Goodwill served very few Hispanics. In 2010, the one Augusta job connection center served 341 Hispanics. In 2011, two centers with bilingual services served 673 Hispanics.  During 2012, 1,842 newly enrolled Hispanics received services from six career centers in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area.

Bustamante said the Macon Goodwill program is successful in large part due to the partnerships she helped curate with community organizations such as the English for Living Foundation, Augusta State University, and True North Church, among many others that help them provide training and education services.

“This model of outreach and engagement can be adapted to other communities and other cultures,” Bustamante said. “Collaborating and partnering with other organizations makes a tremendous difference. But what works here may not work in another community. You need to determine the community’s needs and how you can best bring in these partners.”

Nicole Juhan, coordinator of the ESL ministry at TrueNorth Church in North Augusta, said she and Bustamante began their partnership more than two years ago. Congregants from her church volunteer as ESL instructors at Goodwill sites and now some of the ESL students have begun attending the church. She said she has received positive feedback both from the students and the instructors.

“It’s a huge blessing to be able to have this partnership,” Juhan said. “I would like to thank Goodwill for giving us the ability to reach so many students. We’ve reached so many people in the community because of Goodwill, including providing staff and facilities at a neutral location. The instructors are constantly blessed by the opportunity to serve all the students, who are so grateful. They truly want to be there and want to learn.”

The grant will now support expansion of Buena Vida into the Helms College, helping to enroll Hispanic job seekers into the institute where they can earn certificates and credentials.