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New Goodwill leaders

The Goodwill Work Opportunity Center of Cowlitz County recently filled two leadership positions. Tori Skinner, right, recently took over as director of workforce development and Katie Miles, left, as program manager and administrator of workforce development.

After years working at the Goodwill job training center in Longview, Tori Skinner and Katie Miles know how getting the right job can transform someone.

“You see life-changing stuff here,” Miles said Tuesday. “We’re helping people help themselves.”

In early September, Skinner was promoted to director of workforce development and Miles was promoted to programs manager and administrator of workforce development. The pair hope to use their new positions to improve the center’s programs and connect the most people with jobs.

The Goodwill Work Opportunity Center of Cowlitz County offers a variety of job training and education programs for youth, adults, veterans, seniors and those with disabilities.

Skinner, who’s worked for Goodwill since 2016, was most recently the assistant manager and business development manager. She worked with local businesses to create job training programs.

In her new position, Skinner oversees the center’s strategic plan, including outlining who to serve, and how and which businesses to partner with.

“I’m bringing my background in and making sure what we offer is extremely relevant to connect people to jobs,” she said.

Miles started at Goodwill as a work study student and was hired as a case manager five years ago before becoming the youth program manager. The youth program provides job training, education and job placement services to 16- to 24-year-olds. Miles said in her time at Goodwill, the program has grown from serving 50 to 100 youths per year to 300 a year.

While that growth is exciting, Miles said she now wants to focus on building up programs for adults, because there are fewer resources for job seekers age 25 and older.

Miles said she plans to explore partnering with other entities that provide job resources, such as Lower Columbia College and local libraries, to make sure Goodwill isn’t duplicating services and is meeting job seekers’ needs.

The center already works with the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce and the Cowlitz Economic Development Council, Skinner said. Those partnerships help guide what resources and training the center offers and provides access to jobs, she said.

“The need will always change, so we will always change,” Skinner said.

One example of that change is the transportation and warehouse training program. Since joining Goodwill five years ago, Miles said she has seen classes classes go from being competitive to difficult to fill because changes in the job market mean most people can get a job.

However, Skinner said many people are underemployed in part-time jobs or positions that won’t advance their careers.

“We see a lot of people seeking advancement,” Skinner said. They’re looking for a job that’s “not just a paycheck, it’s a purpose.”

The center has also seen an increase in participants with more significant barriers to getting a job, such as lack of transportation or stable housing, she said.

Another barrier for some job seekers is that the average education level for Cowlitz County residents sits below the state average, Miles said

As part of its job training programs, the center offers financial literacy, basic math and computer literacy classes, Skinner said. Along with helping people get a job, Goodwill aims to help people become “career-minded,” she said.

Miles said the center helps many people who work part-time at fast food restaurants or similar positions that lack opportunity for promotion. Helping them switch to a position where they earn a living wage and advance their career, like Norpac, can be “transformative,” she said.

Employers have also said there is a need for leadership development and “soft skills” in employees, Skinner said. Those skills include time management, critical thinking, communication skills and digital literacy. Goodwill’s work-based learning has been successful partly because it allows participants to learn those skills in real-time, Skinner said.

If Goodwill’s resources don’t match what an applicant is looking for, Skinner said they refer them to a different organization, such as LCC or local unions.

“We have really good partnerships with community resources,” she said. “Our sense of community in Cowlitz is strong.”

Skinner said she and Miles want to make the center a place where everyone feels welcome and hopeful.

“We want people to be excited about themselves and their future, “ she said. “It benefits everyone.”

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