Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota’s commitment to Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) participants is evident throughout the organization. Goodwill-Easter Seals currently has 42 stores and a distribution center – and there are now VRS participants at 26 of those sites. In total there are approximately 100-125 VRS participants at any given time.
Boyd Brown, Goodwill-Easter Seals’ Area Director for Employment & Training, explains that Goodwill-Easter Seals is “fully committed to serving participants in our stores and see this service as essential to meeting our mission of eliminating barriers to work and independence.“
The support given to VRS programs includes a significant financial commitment as well. In addition to the fee revenue generated through VRS for this service, Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota contributes over $600,000 each year to enhance their situational assessment and work adjustment training services to ensure high quality services.
An important advantage Goodwill-Easter has is that it can provide participants a wide variety of work experiences at its own stores and distribution center. A great example is Jenny, who you can watch in the video above: part of her VRS program includes working at a Goodwill store to help her build job skills. Boyd Brown emphasized that point. “We have a highly competitive, “real” business that can provide an excellent work experience opportunity to build skills and confidence in the participants we serve.”
The program that Goodwill-Easter Seals’ VRS participants take part in is structured to first evaluate and understand their goals, abilities and needs and then create a plan that will give each one the skills they need to successfully enter the workforce.
Karen Johnson, Transitional Employment Specialist at Goodwill-Easter Seals, explained the process to us: “Our program generally breaks into three 20-day periods: 20 days of assessment and evaluation, at least 20 days of work adjustment and 20 days of job search skills – and then if we feel they’re ready, we work to get them placed in a job .”
However, each participant’s program is developed to address their unique situation. In Alok’s case, for example, his support team thought it would be helpful for him to spend additional time learning job skills before he started his job search.
Jenny is another example of a VRS participant we met while she was going through the work adjustment phase of her VRS program.
Although she had done volunteer work, Jenny had been out of the workforce for an extensive period of time. The training she’s received has been tailored to meet her goals and needs – and, as is often the case, has included the support of resources outside of Goodwill-Easter Seals’ internal training programs. In Jenny’s case, it involved getting computer skills training through the Minnesota Literacy Program.
The first step in starting a training program at Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota is to attend an Information Session, which occur on the Second and fourth Tuesday of each month. You can also find them on our event calendar.