• Sarah Wilson |
  • | Mission

At Goodwill of Central Iowa we are committed to empowering those with barriers to employment within our communities. However, those barriers to employment can look different for each person we employ, train, and assist in obtaining gainful employment. No matter someone’s barrier to employment, there’s one thing everyone has in common: the value of making a positive difference with an organization. 

Barriers to employment can include physical and intellectual disabilities, along with demographic and skill-related factors. From our skills training programs to job coaching to employment services, we are dedicated to assisting everyone who faces a barrier to employment. When you shop and donate with your local Goodwill, you are funding this mission work. 


Physical and Mental Disabilities

Those who live with muscular dystrophy, rely on a wheelchair, or have other special needs are examples of people who have a physical or mental disability. Though many of these people want to work in their communities, they face extra barriers to employment. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Feb. 26 an unemployment rate of 7.3% among people with disabilities in 2019, meaning that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to those without a disability. While people with disabilities face a unique set of challenges, employers attest that they  are a group of engaged, committed employees who positively impact culture. 

At Goodwill of Central Iowa, we are committed to empowering those with all types of disabilities and barriers to employment. One success story features Larry, who is assisted by a Goodwill Job Coach. Larry W. began his journey with Goodwill in 2017. His persistence to find work led him to success as he found a job that fits his abilities. Having supportive management has been a huge factor in Larry’s success. Consistency in his job tasks and scheduling allows Larry to perform at his full potential. Like Larry, many other Iowans with disabilities utilize their skills to sustain jobs. However, Larry is not alone in seeking fulfillment through work despite his disability. In 2018 the Iowa Data Center reported that 54.1% of Iowans with a disability work at least part-time. 

Mental Illness

Anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia are common mental illnesses that are barriers to employment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that the stigma around mental illness can prevent people from landing a job, despite the fact that 1 in 4 Americans live with a mental illness.

Urging the need for breaking past the stigma surrounding mental illness, recent research suggests that employment can improve a person’s mental well being. In a conversation with Rick C, we learned that a gentleman employed with Goodwill Solutions has schizophrenia. Due to difficulty remembering all of his job tasks, Rick worked with him to tailor the job so he could work effectively. Now that he has a job that works for him, he is successful and happy. While others may have seen his mental illness as a bad thing, Rick was able to look past it and give him a hand up by tailoring his position so he would succeed while meeting business needs.

Criminal Background

Ex-offenders who have been released from prison face many barriers to employment. From skepticism over hiring ex-offenders to large gaps in employment to a potential lack of references, all of these factors make it increasingly difficult for those looking to re-enter society. In fact, evidence indicates that between 60 and 75 percent of the formerly incarcerated remain unemployed up to a year after their release. Such may have been the case for now Goodwill employee Jack C. who was released from prison after serving 20 years. Upon his release, he looked to create a better future for himself and applied to hundreds of jobs to no avail. After a few months of job searching with no offers, he heard about Goodwill’s willingness to give people a chance. After interviewing, he was hired on the spot and has been a wonderful part of the team ever since then.  Learn how one opportunity was able to change his future.

Demographic Factors

Demographic factors may include age, race, sex, and socioeconomic factors like education and wealth. These are primarily factors that are illegal to discriminate against, but difficult to prove. Demographic factors often cannot be changed and can unfortunately be major barriers to employment for minorities and those in low-income areas. 

According to a 2004 study published in the American Economic Review, “Applicants with white names need to send about 10 resumes to get one callback whereas applicants with African-American names need to send about 15 resumes. This 50-percent gap in callback is statistically significant. A White name yields as many more callbacks as an additional eight years of experience on a resume.” One may argue that our society has progressed in the last 16 years since this study was published, but there remains a lot to improve upon. 

Other demographic and socioeconomic factors include homelessness and lack of transportation. When someone does not have reliable transportation, it does not allow them to commit to working set days and hours, which is preferred by employers. In addition, homelessness can be a major barrier in that someone does not have reliable access to a device for applying to jobs, appropriate interview clothing, and documents such as their Birth Certificate or Driver’s License, required documents to get hired.

Being aware of these obstacles is important for community members so we can work together to actively give others a hand up. 

Overall, there are dozens of barriers to employment that people face each and every day. Our mission is to assist Central Iowans in overcoming their barriers to employment by providing employment and job training opportunities to those in our communities. Over 80 cents of each dollar of revenue in our retail stores goes towards funding our mission services. Shop or donate today.

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