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Breaking Down Barriers By Learning New Skills

  • Jamie Coulson |
  • | Mission

Laura Albright came to Goodwill of Central Iowa on her fourth day of unemployment, after having a conversation with Iowa Workforce Development about wanting a career change.

Having been employed in the same line of work for over 25 years, Laura was lost and overwhelmed at the idea of searching for a job.

After Iowa Workforce Development suggested that Laura reach out to the Goodwill of Central Iowa Career Connection Center, she made the decision to stop in and see what services were available. Upon arrival, she was greeted by Career Connectors Dylan Kastner and Courageous Fire.

“Laura first came to us back in September asking for help with digital literacy,” explained Dylan. “She had recently become unemployed and due to her physical mobility concerns, she needed an office job, which she said she was unqualified for.”

Laura’s first visit set the stage for a long-standing relationship with the Goodwill team that would eventually lead her to success in her journey to employment.

“When I got to the Center, I was warmly greeted by both Dylan and Courageous, who asked me what I needed. I explained what I needed, and Dylan explained the Grow with Google program. The program certainly fit my need to update my skills and I started work that day on my Bronze Certification. I worked and completed my Silver Certification a couple of days later,” Laura said.

Despite having a laptop, Laura was very unfamiliar with how to use it. “All I knew was how to download a song from iTunes to my iPod. Even then, someone had to help me access that.”

Operating as the Digital Literacy Program Facilitator, Dylan was able to combine the nationally accredited program with his experience in information technology. This unique combination allowed Dylan the opportunity to assist Laura in achieving success throughout her journey.

The thing Laura remembers most is how welcomed she always felt when she visited the Goodwill Career Connection Center.

“Courageous and Dylan were so kind and supportive. I would drive out of my way to their location because of how wonderful they were and how nicely they treated me,” Laura said.

Full of emotion, Laura tried to explain how Dylan and Courageous were an integral part of her journey with Goodwill. “They were an equal team,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I cannot say enough wonderful things about the two of them.” 

“Through discussions with Laura, Courageous and I discovered she was very sharp and had a lot of talent that she didn’t see within herself,” Dylan said.

During her digital skills training, Laura decided she wanted to learn additional skills on her own.

“I knew to be valuable, I needed to have up-to-date skills,” she explained. “I wanted to see what skills employers were looking for.”

Going through her job search at Iowa Workforce Development, Laura noticed that many employers were looking for people who knew how to use a 10-key pad and Merge Mail. “I figured since I had the time, I would go ahead and learn these skills also,” said Laura.

According to Dylan, Laura applied herself to the task of enhancing her digital skills. “Through guidance and her hard work, she achieved a Gold Level Certification in our Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator program,” Dylan said.

When asked what she had learned through this program Laura immediately responded, “Oh gosh, I learned so much!”

Laura took advantage of all the Career Connection Center had to offer. When it came time for her to find a job, she attended interview skills trainings and followed it up with a mock interview for further practice.

Courageous provided her with information about temporary agencies. Laura mentioned that Courageous gave her a list of roughly 30 temporary agencies and highlighted the ones she was most familiar with.

Laura explained that she was grateful for the skills she had learned through the digital skills program and was excited to see that all the temporary agencies she applied to really tested those skills she had worked so hard to obtain.

“It was very practical,” she said. “They tested things like how many words I could type in a minute and if I could write a proper email.”

Laura had some additional challenges before her when looking to secure a job but her newly polished digital skills gave her a step up in the job hunt. “I had two things against me: being older and having a cane. Those are things that shouldn’t be against you, but they are,” said Laura. “I am really proud of getting these skills. Having to change careers after 25 years is difficult, but it was made easier because I was able to learn new skills.”

Laura explained how applying for jobs has changed over time. “25 years ago, I filled out a paper application and was hired on the spot,” she said. “Dylan and Courageous really helped give me an amazing resume. No matter where I go, I will always remember the profound impact that they and the Goodwill Connection Center had on me and the classes they offered helped me move beyond my wildest expectations.”

Now, Laura is currently working as an electronic imager. She utilizes the digital skills she developed while working with the team at Goodwill of Central Iowa to code all the paperwork that comes across her desk and sends it off for further processing.

“We are very proud of her efforts and her growth, having now accepted and applied her potential,” Dylan said.  

“I am really thankful for Goodwill. I don’t know if I could have learned these skills anywhere else. I just want people to know that it doesn’t matter what age. If you put in the work to learn the skills, you can do it.”

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