Articled published by Omaha Magazine
Written by Greg Jerrett

Goodwill Industries has long been known as America’s go-to thrift store, but more importantly, it provides many areas of job training. By the 1970s, Goodwill’s mission had grown to include job placement programs and outsourcing for small businesses. In 1998, the organization established their Food Service Training Program and placed 144 people in restaurants and kitchens of all kinds. Today they also offer construction, basic IT, and certified nurse’s aide training.

Their latest skills training offering is Computer Aided Design. CAD systems are used to design everything from homes and skyscrapers to blenders, dresses, and space shuttles. The applications ate endless and the education can be expensive and complex as CAD systems allow for the most minute details to be illustrated, measured, and adjusted. CAD light pens, illustration screens, and digitizing tablets are to architects and designers of the 21st century what T-squares and protractors were to manual design prior to the 1960s.

Tobi Mathouser has been with Goodwill since 2006 and has held several positions in the organization. Currently she is the director of mission advancement and oversees such programs as AbilityOne contracts, the Work Experience Program, and the Employment Solutions Program, with which many are already familiar. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Labor YouthBuild has helped her organization add CAD classes.

“I have the privilege of overseeing our mission related programming here at Goodwill,” Mathouser said. “Many people know Goodwill offers value priced merchandise at our retail stores. What many people do not know is that the sales from donated items help fund the heart of our mission our employment readiness programs, including YouthBuild for people with disabilities and other disadvantages.”

Goodwill was first awarded a YouthBuild grant by the Department of Labor in 2006. The YouthBuild program is for people ages 16-24 who have struggled with school, are underemployed, or do not have high school diploma, according to Mathouser.

“The YouthBuild program provides an opportunity for participants to earn their high school diploma and learn occupation and leadership skills in a non-traditional setting,” she said. “The YouthBuild program model has historically focused on construction skills training. However, not all participants are interested in pursuing a career in this field.”

In 2018, Goodwill expanded into health care and basic IT skills training. In 2019, with the help of United Way of the Midlands, Goodwill purchased 12 state-of-the-art monitors and two printers [one 3D printer] for YouthBuild students to complete training and certification in MakerBot 3D Printing and Autodesk.

“As of February we will be offering it to all 30 of our participants.” – Norman Bates

Norman Barnes is the YouthBuild Program Manager. He said 2019 gave him a chance to start with a small group of three students.

“We just started Computer Aided Design and Drafting. We’re looking to go full blast with it in 2020,” said Barnes adding that CAD instruction will be coupled with construction and GED classes as well. “We serve 30 participants a year. Starting with a smaller class was good for us the first time going out with it because we were learning, too. As of February we will be offering it to all 30 of our participants.”

Goodwill’s mission is to change lives and strengthen communities through education, training, and work. By offering youth the opportunity to gain basic CAD skills, they are preparing their program participants for high -wage, high -skill, and high demand jobs in the Omaha area.

Visit goodwillomaha.org for more information.