Regina Harrison believes the job training program offered by Goodwill Industries in Arkansas has given her the tools not only to build her career, but to save lives and reconnect with her children and families.
Harrison has received two promotions since joining the nonprofit’s Interim Employment Opportunity program just nine months ago. She’s been through the state prison system and is poised to move on to new roles to help other Arkansasans like her who have little prospect of employment when released.
Goodwill is also expanding its program this year with the opening of four new training centers across the state. This quadruples the initiative’s growth over the last 18 months.
“This place is like family to me,” Harrison said last week while overseeing about 30 other workers with troubled backgrounds. “This is more than a job here. You really saved my life.People here believed in me before I believed in myself.I got the tools I needed to overcome everything. I did.”
Goodwill Industries will have more than 20 job training centers in Arkansas with this year’s expansion, after adding 11 locations last year. Last year, 42 graduates completed his 16-week curriculum. In the first eight months of fiscal year 2023, the program has already graduated 78 people, many of whom have found employment with his Goodwill. The program graduated 500 of his Arkansas natives, about 50 of whom are currently employed by Goodwill.
Also, program graduates are less likely to return to prison, goodwill officials said.
Goodwill Industries of Arkansas has launched a program to provide work and life skills training to men and women re-entering the community after incarceration.
According to CEO Brian Marsh, re-entry training is a three-step process focused on helping graduates find jobs, get better jobs and ultimately build careers. . Goodwill provides essential services such as resume writing, career planning, job search assistance and employability assessment. All locations have computer labs to help you find and apply for jobs.
There are also eight hours of classroom sessions per week to strengthen soft skills such as budgeting and interpersonal development with a focus on workplace communication and conflict resolution. Program participants are paid for a 32-hour work week, which can be extended to 40 hours if possible.
“This provides a safe learning environment for them while they’re here,” Marsh said of the reentry program. “They work side by side with our employees and they are paid members of our team.”
Reentry training provides the necessary foundation for success at work and at home, Marsh said.
“They’re put in an environment where every decision is made for them, and you’re not used to it when you have to make decisions in challenging situations,” he added. The program prepares you for when you’re talking to your boss about things you don’t want to hear, giving you more tools in your toolbox to help you make the right decisions.”
Goodwill offers graduates jobs in retail, warehousing, marketing, finance and information technology.
The organization works with state and local corrections officers, parole officers, and law enforcement agencies to help recruit Arkansas people for life after release.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office has worked with Goodwill over the past several years to provide jobs for law enforcement re-entry and drug rehabilitation program graduates, supplementing training and skills not provided by the sheriff’s program. I’ve been
Once a month, goodwill officials brief program participants on the service, according to Kathy McConnell, director of the Sheriff’s Reentry Initiative.
“Goodwill is not just about providing employment opportunities,” she said. “Goodwill Industries is a training program that gives you soft skills training and helps you build your resume and more. We will step up that work. We will.”
Goodwill has added 11 new interim job opportunity sites since December 2021 after receiving approximately $750,000 in grants through the U.S. Department of Justice. Grants have helped fuel expansion, but goodwill officials say the Reentry Initiative is primarily funded by the sale of donated merchandise. has a budget of $56 million in fiscal year 2022, 92% of which is spent supporting programs such as reentry services.
In addition to re-entry training, Goodwill operates The Academy, a program that offers adults 19 and older the opportunity to earn a high school diploma. It is the only adult program in the state authorized by the Department of Education to issue degrees. The Academy also offers 19 vocational training programs in six major industries, from advanced manufacturing to healthcare, and he plans to add seven more.
Like Harrison, Stephen Vaughan found safe haven in the program and Goodwill after spending six and a half years in prison. I worked for 10 years but was not offered any job opportunities after I got out of prison. He joined the program in his 2016 and is currently running it.
Vaughan, who is in charge of the overall statewide program, said: “There’s a popular saying that you don’t know what you don’t know, but there were many barriers that I wasn’t aware of. A second chance is when someone believes you should give you a second chance. but it should not be their company.”
The Transitional Employment Opportunity Program provided a career and, more importantly, was a life-changing experience, said Vaughn, adding that the program restored his self-esteem and rebuilt his confidence.
“The way I thought of myself at the beginning of the program wasn’t the way I thought of myself at the end of the program,” Vaughan added. Seeing people believe in me really worked for me. I set higher goals than I would have had without the program.”
Harrison joined Goodwill’s re-entry program in June 2022 and held an entry-level position with a nonprofit in Little Rock before being promoted to crew supervisor. And she’s transitioning to the position of case manager, providing hands-on guidance and advice in pursuing programs to help others who have recently been released from prison.
“I’ve lived my life like that. I know what it’s like when no one believes you, so I can help,” she said. It was my life, but not anymore.
“I’m never leaving Goodwill,” Harrison says through tears. “This is where I want to be.”