By Tammy Daniels
04:02AM / Thursday, May 09, 2019
Goodwill's Director of Community Development Maryam Kamangar, President and CEO David Twiggs and Mayor Thomas Bernard wait for the ceremony to start.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It took six years, but Kathy Anker has succeeded it bringing Goodwill's employability program to North Berkshire.
"I've wanted the space since I joined the organization, because I feel that we needed to bring our mission services to North County," she said. Goodwill has a large training and donation center in Pittsfield but it's hard for people to get there. "You have to say, I'm coming to where you are."
Anker, director of mission services for Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires, has transformed a room at the State Street store that once held the agency's Suit Your Self program and later a book room.
Christa Collier, executive director of Northern Berkshire United Way, cut the ribbon on the doorway to the new Gateway to Employment Career Center on Wednesday.
"We're so happy to support Goodwill. They're one of our 20 member agencies, and they do a lot of great work in this community, helping individuals get employability skills," she said.
Goodwill CEO and President David Twiggs thanked the organizations, particularly NBUW, that have supported the agency. One of the themes in his office, he said, was that this is the community's Goodwill.
"We are truly humbled at Goodwill, for the opportunity for us to expand our horizons like this is by virtue of donations," Twiggs said. "This is evidence of what that brings forward through donations. So I would be remiss not to compliment all those in the community, for assisting us are bringing this forward by virtue of donations."
NBUW was a major donor to the center, providing the funds for equipment such as computers and printers. The courses became available in February and about 10 people have been taking them; Anker said one person dropped in on Wednesday after seeing the signs. The program is only open about 12 hours a week but she hopes to be able to hire someone to staff the office for 30 hours within the next six months.
The center offers nationally certified retail and custodial training and also the job readiness and soft skills — like resume writing, communication, comportment, study and interview skills and dependability. At the end of training, participants will work with consultants with the Suit Your Self program to ensure they have the professional attire they need.
"It's understanding what motivates them, how to be dependable," Anker said. "If they weren't taught at home, and like many people aren't, they need to get it someplace else."
Most of the area's jobs are retail but retail skills are always transferable to the service industry, she said.
"So once you get the job, that sounds like the easy part, then you have to keep the job. So we teach those skills," Anker said. "There are career paths and we try to help people see them."
Anker said Goodwill was about job readiness not job placement so it has a strong partner in the state's MassHire employment program. It also provides continuing support for individuals whether it's a year later or six weeks later.
"We can give you skills but if you don't have any other supports how are you going to maintain them?" she said. "I will also say once you get into the Goodwill family you stay there."
Jon Gould from state Sen. Adam Hinds office read a citation from the state Senate congratulating Goodwill on the opening and Mayor Thomas Bernard spoke at the event.
"It's clear that this center is going to provide resources to people who need them, people who are looking to secure and retain jobs, and the services that will be provided — career searching and coaching, resume development, and the things that help you to tell your story and to stand out when you're going to meet with a prospective employer," the mayor said.
There are more than 250 jobs posted on BerkshireJobs.com
(an affiliate of iBerkshires.com), 400 or so on the state's job board and 1,800 for nonprofits listed on Indeed for the region, he said.
"We want to make sure that we're able to hire local, that they are able to coach and support people. And we want to help make sure people stand out to employers, that's what this center will enable people to do," Bernard said. "And the thing I love the most about it, it is mission driven, it's aligned with the mission of of Goodwill, and the people who are going to use the services, it's going to build a sense of independence, it's going to build itself a sense of self-sufficiency and confidence. ...
"I know this is going to be part of building a stronger, more sustainable, more resilient community here in the Northern Berkshires."
The Gateway to Employment Career Center has walk-in hours on Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesday's from 1 to 4 p.m.