Goodwill Skills Trainers Q&A Series – Part I Of III
Goodwill employment skills trainers provide daily management of the Group Supported Employment Program, which provides inclusive employment opportunities to individuals with documented disabilities who work in groups under the supervision of a skills trainer. This integrated program offers intense levels of support, individualized development plans, hands-on training and case management.
Goodwill has 13 community sites in central and coastal Virginia that operate this program. In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Goodwill is highlighting some of the employment skills trainers with a Question-and-Answer series.
Q. How long have you worked for Goodwill?
A. I have worked for Goodwill for over two years. During my first year, I worked as a floating skills trainer. I was grateful to have the opportunity to get to know all the participants and other retail associates in the Central Virginia stores. Last year, I decided to take a permanent position with a supported employment group at the Midlothian Crossing Goodwill.
Q. What drew you to your position?
A. I have always worked with individuals with special needs, and was looking for a position that would fit my experience. I was enthusiastic about Goodwill’s mission and felt I could make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Q. What specific skills and expertise do you have that aid you in your work?
A. I started my career as an elementary school teacher after graduating from VCU with a Bachelor of Arts in Education. After working for Henrico County public schools, I moved on to teaching special needs students in Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield and Richmond City schools. I eventually became an educational therapist for Dominion Behavioral Healthcare, working with students diagnosed with emotional and intellectual disorders. After the school-based program closed, I walked into a Goodwill Community Employment Center and discovered a caring staff. I felt an instant connection to Goodwill and its mission.
Q. How do the services you provide help individuals with disabilities improve and grow?
A. I am proud that Goodwill places an emphasis on giving people more job opportunities through vocational training programs. Skills trainers teach social skills so that participants can interact effectively with associates and customers. With these skills, they can work in other departments independently. Our goal is to have group supported employment program members be viewed as productive associates, rather than as employees with disabilities. Eventually, some participants will be able to move out of the program into more independent employment. Through learning and teamwork, our participants’ success is unlimited!
Q. What do you love about your job?
A. I look forward to coming to work each day, knowing I can make a difference in the participants’ lives. Each morning, their smiles and enthusiasm inspire me to be a better supervisor. I am especially fortunate to work with associates and managers at Midlothian Crossing who make the participants feel like a valued part of the Goodwill team.
Q. What is the biggest challenge in your work currently?
A. Each participant brings special skills to their job. This group is charged with hanging textiles, but they can do so much more when given the opportunity. Discovering their gifts and finding a way to fit them into other parts of the store is my biggest challenge. I prefer to call it an “opportunity” to recognize these individuals and highlight their unique talents. They surprise me every day with what they can do!
Q. What challenges have you overcome in your work?
A. I have always appeared to be a quiet individual. However, I realized that my team needed someone to advocate for them. This has inspired me to speak up for them when they cannot. I am becoming more of an extrovert and find it satisfying to have my ideas heard and validated. And the participants have this same need. We are all growing together!
Q. What do you like about working for Goodwill?
A. It is important to me to work in an environment that feels like a family more than a workplace. I consider the friendships I have made at all the Goodwill stores to be a valuable part of my life.