Goodwill, Kirkwood offer manufacturing training

Participants earn pay as they gain needed skills

Ginny Chamberlin, trainee, works on assembling ice compartment doors for refrigerators at Goodwill of the Heartland’s Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Ginny Chamberlin, trainee, works on assembling ice compartment doors for refrigerators at Goodwill of the Heartland’s Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

As Ginny Chamberlin works each weekday in Goodwill of the Heartland’s contract manufacturing division, the Mount Vernon resident is gaining valuable skills and earning pay for her work.

Chamberlin is participating in Goodwill’s light manufacturing training certificate program, offered in partnership with Kirkwood Community College, to connect job seekers with livable wage jobs.

“One of the things that I like about this program is that I am working with a job placement specialist,” Chamberlin said. “They’ve spent about 10 hours with me going over interviewing skills and resume writing.

“They also are going to help me find a job. I would really like to work at Whirlpool in Amana when I am done.”

Goodwill received a $30,000 grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation to get the program started in early 2017. Jessica Schamberger, vice president of operations at Goodwill, said the grant is helping people looking for jobs as well as aiding manufacturers such as Whirlpool.

“Our local manufacturing sector offers good paying jobs, but we know that many companies are experiencing workforce issues,” Schamberger said. “They are having difficulty recruiting and retaining skilled workers for entry level positions.

“Our intent with this program is to help those that are unemployed or underemployed achieve greater financial independence while also providing a workforce solution that closes the skill gap manufacturers are facing.”

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The program combines classroom-based training and on-the-job experience. There is no cost to trainees and no restrictions on who can be served.”

The classroom training is taught by Kirkwood instructors at the Goodwill Employment and Training Center, 1441 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE in Cedar Rapids. Participants complete Kirkwood’s OSHA-10 class on policies and procedures and general industry standards, she explained.

“They also participate in Foundations of Lean course work, a six-hour class that teaches concepts and tools that drive waste out of business processes so resources are used to add value to customer products,” she added.

Goodwill also provides 20 hours of soft-skills training that teaches teamwork and problem solving.

Trainees work a minimum of 200 hours in Goodwill Contract Services on assembly, packaging, inspection and recycling production processes.

Goodwill Contract Services performs work for Rockwell Collins, Nordstrom Direct, adidas SLD, Whirlpool’s Amana division and other businesses in the region. A total of 4.8 million assemblies were shipped to Whirlpool-Amana in 2016 to support its refrigerator manufacturing lines.

“It is doing real work, like building ice drawer assemblies for Whirlpool that eventually go on the company’s products,” Schamberger said. “It’s a way for a person to get hands-on experience and decide if working in manufacturing is right for them.”

The elements of the program are based on the Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model, an industry standard created by manufacturers.

Lorena Gingerich, human resources manager at Kapstone Container Corp. in Cedar Rapids, said Jesse Eschin, a graduate of the light manufacturing training program, has been “fabulous.”

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”All around, he is a good worker,” Gingerich said. “His attendance is really good. Whatever they taught him, it is really sticking.”

Gingerich said the training program could be improved by teaching some industry-specific skills.

“We make corrugated boxes, so something that’s really important is knowing how to read a tape measure,” she said. “They are cutting and when they don’t cut correctly, that is waste and it is counted against the company.”

Kirkwood is partnering with Goodwill to offer four-week paid internships to successful graduates. Internships give job seekers the opportunity to demonstrate their skills to employers while earning a paycheck.

Parker-Hannifin Corp. in Hiawatha has offered two internships.

“It was a really positive experience,” said Nicole Houck, human resources manager. “We enjoyed doing that and would love to do it again.

“It helps us to reach out to an untapped market in the community. It was a really quick and easy process.”

Kim Becicka, vice president of Kirkwood Continuing Education and Training Services, said the internship experience enables businesses to assess the talents of Goodwill graduates at no cost to the employer.

“Employers are able to understand and see what type of education and training has been provided and what types of skills have been learned through the on-the-job training experience,” Becicka said.

Becicka and Schamberger said the ultimate goal of the internships is full-time employment for program graduates. In addition to job placement assistance, Goodwill also provides case management and follow-up support.

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Goodwill connects program participants with community resources and addresses employment barriers including transportation, health care, financial management and child care.

“We want to help our graduates succeed and maintain their jobs long-term,’ Schamberger said.

In the first year of the program, 64 people were enrolled and 34 successfully completed the training and graduated. Sixty-eight percent of the graduates were able to get jobs. according to Schamberger,

“We are really helping people build their confidence, find a career pathway that works for them, and inspire them to continue their education beyond the skills they learn in this program,” she said.

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