Q&A with Workforce Development Manager Kyle Van Acker
What is your role at Goodwill?
I am a Workforce Development Manager who supports three teams providing employment supports in the Metro area: Metro Disability Placement and Retention, Youth Heading Home, and Hennepin County Employment and Training Pilot. These last two programs are working with youth and adults experiencing housing instability.
What trends are you seeing in the community related to workforce development?
I’ve enjoyed seeing employers increasingly recognizing that their ways of recruiting and supporting their employees are no longer serving their needs, so they reach out to organizations like ours for assistance finding and keeping good employees. Increasingly, employers look to hire people that they’ve previously ignored or said “no” to and, often times, that’s who we are serving at GESMN.
Is there a participant(s) who stand out in your mind or whose stories were impactful?
We worked with a participant in the Youth Heading Home program who, despite having been homeless recently, was active in the arts scene and wanted a job where they could learn and practice lighting techniques and creation of “imagined spaces”. We helped place them in a job at a virtual reality studio last year. From this work and their artistic involvement, they were recently awarded a fellowship and will be partnering with Edina Public Schools to teach a series of art classes to students. These classes will be designed around projection mapping and showcasing some of their own art.
What are common barriers to employment you see most often?
The teams I am a part of tend to work with people who have disabilities, justice system involvement, gaps in employment due to life circumstances, housing and food insecurity, and other situations that make it harder to get and keep steady employment. We help them minimize the impacts of these challenging situations in their lives.
How does Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota help?
Many of our programs are designed to serve a specific group of people that otherwise might not receive the employment support we offer. Our stores provide some of the funding for all the programs I work with, and without the additional support from the stores, we either would not be able to provide the level of support and time to each person we’re working with, or we might not be able to exist as a program at all.
What do you wish people knew about these programs?
Our Career Navigators on these teams are incredible supports for the people they are working with and their passion for helping others is what drives our impact. It’s an honor to work with them and support the work they are doing on behalf their participants.