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You Shop. We Train. People Work.

Posted by Dan Depies on April 8, 2015

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Written by Kelly Cieslak.

I know many of you have seen the billboards with this tagline. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, what does that REALLY mean?” Our Retail Institute Training Program is a perfect example.Office-500wGoodwill’s Retail Institute Training Program is a collaboration between Goodwill Store & Donation Centers, and Goodwill Workforce Development that launched in June 2013. Currently, 15 Goodwill Store & Donation Centers are participating in the Retail Institute in Wisconsin and Illinois. The goal is to enhance and expand job opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment within Goodwill Store & Donation Centers by focusing on training, support, and customer service. The program recruits and develops individuals to become successful retail employees and strong customer service advocates.

So going back to that tagline:

You Shop.

The program is primarily self-funded by Goodwill and wouldn’t be possible without our donors and shoppers in the stores. Thank you for supporting the Goodwill mission!

We Train.

The Retail Institute Training Program lasts nine weeks, starting with one week of Work and Life Skills Training in a classroom that includes topics like Professionalism, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, and Safety, among others. After successful completion of Work and Life skills training, individuals have eight weeks of on-the-job training in one of the Goodwill Store & Donation Centers. Approximately 180 hours of paid training is invested in each associate, with support from a Career Coach as well as store leadership.

People Work.

Upon successful completion of the training program, a graduate may be considered for permanent hire by Goodwill Retail. In addition, the Career Coaches maintains guidance and support from program entry through the first 90 days of permanent hire.

Since inception in 2013, 94 individuals have been trained in Work and Life Skills and over 50% have been hired permanently by Goodwill Store & Donation Center, with high retention rates. This program is making a difference in people’s lives, as a recent Program Associate said “The Retail Institute was very hands on and taught us a lot about retail operations.  I have enjoyed meeting new people and working with customers.  I love my job and would recommend this training program.” Feedback from the store leadership has been positive as well. One Store Manager commented, “We have had a great success rate with the program. We have been able to find some truly hard working and dedicated employees through the program.  Having the life skills training in advance also work really well.”

If you are interested in learning more about Goodwill’s training or recruiting solutions, please reach out and we can discuss what might work for your business.    


Kelly Cieslak, Director Workforce Development, is responsible for leading Goodwill’s mission related workforce development and integration efforts to help job seekers and employers. Kelly joined Goodwill in 2006, and has held roles as a Case Manager, Lead Employment Support Specialist, and Manager Workforce Development. Kelly was a key part of the Transitional Jobs project, and has led the successful pilot of the Goodwill Retail Institute in WI and IL. In addition, Kelly leads the Workforce Connection Centers across WI and IL, in 2014 those operations served over 30,000 individuals and helped people find over 3,600 jobs. Kelly has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UNC Asheville, and an MBA from Alverno College in Milwaukee.

Written by Dan Depies

Dan Depies, Vice President of Workforce and Program Development oversees a large portion of Goodwill’s core mission of Transforming Lives through the Power of Work. Dan has been with Goodwill for 4 years, joining in June 2010. Previously, Dan spent 14 years in Management Consulting supporting clients in Manufacturing, Health Care, and Financial Service industries with IT systems, process, and new product launch projects. Dan is a board member of Wisconsin Business Growth Fund, is a member of Executive Agenda and the WICPA, and is an active volunteer in Boy Scouts, youth sports, and SafeKids Coalition.
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Mission Support Center
Tel: (414) 847-4200

James O. Wright Center forWork & Training
Tel: (414) 353-6400

Metropolitan Chicago -
Tel: (312) 994-1440