$1.6 million for Tacoma Goodwill jobs program

Tacoma Goodwill announced yesterday a $1.6 million federal grant will expand job-training and placement services for people with disabilities across the organization’s service area.

Five hundred job seekers with disabilities will be served and 275 people will be placed in jobs over the five years of the grant, according to Tacoma Goodwill CEO Terry A. Hayes. The money to expand the programs comes during the 20th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the first Disability Awareness Month in the state of Washington.

“This is a great day for those who want to go to work and another major step forward in our long history of helping people with disabilities,” Hayes said. “This grant expands and enhances our services to provide specific training, placement and career advancement opportunities in trades where employers will need workers.”

The money comes from a Projects With Industry grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, with support from U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. First-year funding will total $327,189, or 75 percent of the cost. Goodwill and other partners will add another $81,000. Goodwill is one of 66 organizations that received funding from among 200 applicants.

The need to find work opportunities is a major challenge locally and across the country. According to a recent University of Washington-Tacoma School of Business study, by 2010 the number of unemployed people with disabilities in Pierce County alone will reach 39,400. One national study noted people with disabilities make up almost 13 percent of the working-age population but only 37.7 percent are employed.

The grant would expand opportunities in Goodwill’s Retail and Customer Service Program, Office Essentials Program, and Custodial/Janitorial Skills Training Program. The services would be provided in Goodwill’s Work Opportunity Centers in Tacoma, Longview and Yakima.

In December, Tacoma Goodwill CEO Terry A. Hayes and Gov. Chris Gregoire unveiled a design drawing for the organization’s $20 million Work Opportunity Center.

In June, Tacoma Goodwill broke ground on a $20-million, LEED-Silver certified job center, presently under construction at the corner of South 27th Street and Tacoma Avenue, will be named the Tacoma Goodwill-Milgard Work Opportunity Center when the three-story, 63,000-square-foot facility is completed in fall 2009.