How Goodwill’s career training helped an accountant become proficient in IT

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Kiyosha Jones was working a full-time job as a billing specialist when her mother suggested she join her in a training class offered by Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont.

Jones, who had studied Spanish and public health in school, was trying to figure out her next career move, and it had become clear that there was little room to advance in her current job. 

She joined her mother in the IT program and now works as a quality assurance (QA) tester and is on her way to becoming a test automation engineer. When she started with Goodwill, she says, she had no idea of the depth of training and career coaching she would receive.

“I had such a limited knowledge of what Goodwill’s programs were for,” says Jones. “I thought the training was more elementary, or maybe more geared toward second-chance programs. I didn’t realize they had programs for people looking for a career transition.”

(Pictured: Kiyosha Jones)

“I had such a limited knowledge of what Goodwill’s programs were for,” says Jones. “I thought the training was more elementary, or maybe more geared toward second-chance programs. I didn’t realize they had programs for people looking for a career transition.”

Goodwill has existed in Charlotte for 55 years. While the nonprofit’s donation centers and thrift stores are well known, leadership realized that, despite Goodwill’s longevity in the community, many people didn’t fully understand the organization and all that it offers.  

This month, Goodwill announced new mission and vision that it believes will better describe how the nonprofit supports the Charlotte area. 

“A lot has changed since we last updated the mission statement 50 years ago,” said LaRita Barber, Goodwill’s Chief Advancement Officer.  “Throughout the years we have adapted to meet the changing needs of our community, and we are super excited that the updates to our mission, vision and values statements reflect the path we started many years ago and the exciting direction we are heading.”

More than a job

Goodwill Industries was founded in 1902 in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms. A Methodist minister, Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city. He trained and hired people in need to repair the goods, which were then resold or given to those who repaired them, leading to Goodwill’s philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out.”

The national headquarters supports local Goodwill organizations, which are autonomous. This means each Goodwill can design programs and services that best match its community.

In Charlotte, Goodwill started in 1965 with the mission of helping people find work, but it has evolved into offering much more, serving as a comprehensive community partner that provides career counseling, financial needs programs, employment tools and resources and skills training. In addition to 25 retail stores and 30 donation centers, the nonprofit offers the Goodwill Opportunity Campus, the Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center, regional career centers, and business and educational partnerships. It employs more than 900 people in the Charlotte area. Goodwill’s services are free, paid for by shopping and donating at Goodwill locations.

The nonprofit’s new mission statement reads: “Goodwill builds pathways that help people pursue the life they want to achieve.” Barber is particularly proud of how Goodwill works with people to identify their passions. 

“Before, the focus was on someone needing a job, and we would partner with them to find a job. But that wasn’t what they needed,” Barber says. “They were looking to be fulfilled with things that speak to their passions and aspirations, and a job is only part of that.

“We’re excited to be able to partner and help people achieve the life they want for their families,” she says. “It’s a real privilege we have to partner with individuals to tap into their dreams and goals and aspirations and see them realize them.”

Building a new pathway

When Jones approached Goodwill, she was asked to fill out a questionnaire to help her understand the job for which she would be training. She was educated on the roles, responsibilities and salary expectations for a QA tester to ensure the position would be a good fit. She was pleasantly surprised at the amount of career coaching and job advice she was given, which increased her excitement and confidence about the career switch. 

During Jones’ training at Goodwill, she received instruction on coding, automation, manual testing, project management and the software development lifecycle. She graduated in November of 2019 and was hired in a contract IT position in August of 2020.  

She said Goodwill continued to help following graduation, conducting mock interviews and helping her secure financial assistance after her mother was in an accident. 

“Goodwill was really really personal, in the best way.  They did everything they could for us to help us succeed,” Jones said.  “Now when I think of my future, my future definitely looks bright. There’s continuous room for growth at Insight. It is a very fast-paced environment, and I have a great team as well. This has just been my best corporate experience.”

Jones, 30, currently works as a quality assurance tester at Insight Enterprises and has earned  the certification Professional Scrum Master, Level 1.

“We’ve been smiling a lot as an organization,” Barber says. “It makes us feel good to pause and showcase what’s different, important and valuable as we reintroduce Goodwill to the community.” 

More about Goodwill

Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center

Purpose Statement:

Goodwill exists to help people see possibilities, seize opportunities, and prosper.

Mission Statement:

Goodwill builds pathways that help people pursue the life they want to achieve.

Vision Statement:

Goodwill envisions a community where equitable access to career opportunities is

available for all.

Services offered by Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont:

  • Job skills training in IT, Customer Service, Microsoft, Computer Basics, Construction & Trade skills and GED
  • Resume writing, interview skills and career counseling.
  • Basic needs support and referrals
  • Hiring fairs and staffing services
  • 25 retail stores, with plans to open 25 additional stores and donation centers during the next five years
  • More than 30 donation sites
  • Goodwill Opportunity Campus, a 160,000-square-foot building offering space for strategic partners to provide participant services related to food and nutrition, healthcare, finance, education and legal services; private interview rooms; and more.
  • The Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center
  • Partnerships with employers and other organizations, including Charlotte Metro Credit Union, Charlotte Community Health Clinic, Common Wealth Charlotte and the Center for Community Transitions 

In 2020, Goodwill

  • Assisted 697 people with launching new careers
  • Provided coaching to 1,381 people
  • Helped 397 people complete training

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