Goodwill Program Helps Young Adults Go from Jail to a Job

MUSKEGON, MI — Goodwill Industries of West Michigan (GIWM) is helping young adults with criminal backgrounds in the Muskegon area transition to new jobs as part of a new training program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The Goodwill LifeLaunch: Ignite reentry program is designed to provide job skills and career training services for those ages 18 to 24 with a past criminal history. GIWM is one of four Goodwill organizations in the country to offer LifeLaunch: Ignite, along with Goodwills headquartered in Atlanta, GA; Louisville, KY; and Pittsburgh, PA.

“Landing job opportunities for people with criminal histories has always been challenging, but never more so than now,” said GIWM Workforce Development Director Kiesha Guy. “Given the tough job market due to COVID-19, those in our community looking for a second chance will benefit greatly from LifeLaunch: Ignite.”

The new reentry program will serve approximately 100 local young adults with criminal backgrounds. A total of 415 youth will participate across all four cities involved in the program. GIWM was chosen to operate under this grant based on community need, its experience in reentry and young adult services; and its strong partnerships with community colleges, local criminal justice systems, and employers.

“We are seeing tremendous disruptions in the job market, both here in Muskegon and across the country,” said Guy. “With the addition of LifeLaunch: Ignite, Goodwill will be able to help many young people focused on turning their lives around for the better.”

Each of the four participating Goodwill organizations will have employment training programs that focus on in-demand jobs in their local communities. In Muskegon, that includes manufacturing personnel, machine operators, and electrical maintenance workers.

Among the program’s goals are to keep recidivism rates at or below 20 percent, to help 60 percent of participants attain a credential, and to assist 75 percent of participants to gain measurable skills. Goodwill will track program participants after completion of LifeLaunch: Ignite to accurately measure program success.

The program will operate for approximately 24 months with a 12-month period for follow-up services. As part of the DOL’s Young Adult Reentry Program, LifeLaunch: Ignite will strengthen Muskegon by helping participants become productive, contributing members of the community; gain long-term, financially sustaining employment; find stable homes; and address any potential substance abuse or mental health needs.

“This grant opens the door for making significant, life-changing shifts in young people’s lives,” GIWM President and CEO Jeanette Hoyer said. “We have a chance to further combat systemic poverty and inequality in our community through education, training, and opportunities.”