Pathways to Career Stability and Growth
with Steven Preston of Goodwill Industries International
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the workforce and economy, with many Americans reassessing their jobs, career paths, and opportunities.
Steven Preston, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss “Rising Together” — a program designed to equip Americans with career-building skills.
Oct 01, 2021
Anderson: COVID-19 has had a major impact on our workforce and economy, with many Americans reassessing their jobs, career paths, and opportunities. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. America's job market is changing, and efforts are underway to equip Americans with skills and support to earn good jobs in sustainable careers. And these efforts are coming from a familiar place, Goodwill. For many, it is a name that's synonymous with being an affordable place to shop or drop off donated clothing and other household items. But Steven Preston is the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, and he joins me to talk about how it's oh, so much more. Steve, thanks for being here.
Preston: Well, thanks for having me.
Anderson: So, we know that Goodwill is more than donations and shopping. But for those who might not know, explain to us some of the sort of workforce development services big picture that you all are working on, because I know that's a huge component of what you do.
Preston: Yeah. Really, you know, obviously people do know us for the stores because that's where they shop and as you mentioned, that's where they donate. But our mission is to help people to reach their full potential through learning at work. That's what we've done for 120 years. Our goal is to help people reach their goals in life and reach their potential. And in addition to employing over 120,000 people -- which we do in the stores, many of them who come to us -- many of them come to us for their first job and opportunities to advance in the stores or outside -- we help over a million people through dedicated job centers across the country, where people come to get skills, where they come to get support in preparing for jobs and actually finding jobs.
Anderson: Rising Together is an initiative that launched in 2021. It's an extension of your focus on workforce -- the goal, of course, to get a million people employed in fields with sustainable careers by 2025. Tell us quickly what you mean by sustainable careers. What are a few examples?
Preston: Well, you know, a sustainable career requires that somebody has enough money to support themselves and their families and that they have an opportunity to go forward with a foundation of skills that help them to continue to develop throughout their career. We don't just look at sort of that first job. We want to make sure that people have a foundation for ongoing development and growth. And so those are two very important components when we think about a sustainable career.
Anderson: Clearly, you decided there was a need for this type of assistance, which is why Rising Together came about, but what specifically led you to see that that need was real and that Goodwill had the power to do something about it?
Preston: Well, we have, you know, 800 locations across the country where people come to us for support, and we provide any -- any number of forms of support. But what we've found is there is an enormous corporate community that both -- that has both the capability to help those people through us and an increasing desire. Corporations increasingly are looking for ways to have an impact on their communities to allow their people to engage in a meaningful mission beyond just what they're doing at work. And so we provide that opportunity both to get access to people who need that support and to leverage the capabilities that they bring to the table.
Anderson: COVID-19, of course, has had a real impact on the need for future job preparedness. How was that related to your moves with Rising Together?
Preston: Yeah, that's a great question. Even before COVID, we saw a significant transition in the needs of employers, and all of the economists that we looked at both pre- and post-COVID were saying that jobs would migrate away from lower skilled jobs to higher skilled jobs. Now, those higher skilled jobs provide a lot of opportunity for people, but they need to get the skills to be able to compete for those. So Rising Together allows us to tap into the corporate community in many ways to bring training and education in very targeted skills areas like digital and health care. It helps us provide them with supports like transportation to jobs or to interviews, and it helps us expand the support and improve the support we give them in the actual process of getting them a job. So these corporate supports are actually helping us do the things that we've always done in a much more robust way for the benefit of the people that we're looking to help.
Anderson: You've billed Rising Together as the sort of first-of-its-kind coalition with companies that you're working together with, but if there's no sort of track record for something like this, what makes you think it's going to work?
Preston: Well, that's a great question. We do have a track record in delivering the kind of support that we're getting from these corporations, and in many cases, we've had partnerships that maybe do one thing or another thing. What we're trying to do with Rising Together is stitch together an entire portfolio of resources that help our participants from the time they come with the need for a job through the process of getting the skills, getting other support they need and finally to getting that job. So it's more holistic, it's more extensive, and it leverages the learning that we've had over the years in terms of what people need and other types of corporate partnerships that we've had in the past.
Anderson: And, Steve, if people want to find out more about Rising Together, about Goodwill, what's the website? Where should they go?
Preston: They should go to Goodwill.org. You can go onto Goodwill.org. You can take -- you can actually take classes at Goodwill.org. You can actually, through our partnership with Indeed.com, look at available jobs in your area and get support in the -- in the process of finding that job. And very importantly, you can find out if there's a job center in your local market so that if you're an employer who's looking to hire people, or if you're somebody who's looking for assistance, you can figure out who to call locally to get that support.
Anderson: Steve Preston, the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, thank you so much for being here.
Preston: I really appreciate your having me on. Thank you.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, just log on to Comcast Newsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.