Goodwill Berkshire class teaches life, work skills

Focus on soft skills - goal-setting, decision making, punctuality.

by John Sakata, Berkshire Eagle
May 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Wearing a suit and tie, Trevor Jones looked ready to land a job, but more importantly he had learned important skills to keep the job. The 25-year-old from Stephentown, N.Y., said he's been on the job market for two years. He was one of six to graduate from a six-week program run by Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires Inc. to learn important job skills that often are left out in a job description.

The graduation ceremony was at the Mildred Elley School on East Street and included star-shaped balloons and cake.

Struggling to land a job, he re-learned the importance of "soft skills," including goal-setting, decision-making, and the importance of punctuality. "Not only how to schedule my time better, but also maintain a more positive attitude," said Jones, who said the classes particularly helped him manage stress.

For their hard work and studious attendance, everyone received a diploma at their final class -- and the promise of connections that would help them find other jobs. The course will be offered again in the fall.

Rachel Crow, of Mildred Elley, spoke about the importance of the classes. "With our kids, we are training to be punctual, to deliver excellent customer service, to communicate well with their colleagues and co-workers. Those are the things we want to bring back to the classroom," she said.

Goodwill of the Berkshires provides employment training and support services to improve quality of life. The three-hour classes were offered every Friday. The classes focused on attitude, time management, motivation, dependability, decision-making and ethics, and job retention. Employment Program Manager Kathy Anker said Friday's was the third graduating class.

As if looking through their future employers' eyes, Jones learned how he could be a better employee. Jones said with a 3-year-old child at home, life can be stressful and he learned how to manage the stress so it wouldn't affect his work. Jones started showing up to classes in a suit and tie. "It was really important to help bring my confidence and self-esteem [up]," he said.

Following a yearlong search for a job, Adams resident Mary Gazaille struggled with confidence, but the classes helped re-focus her on why she wanted one: Her 10-year-old boy.

She beat back competition to land a job at Walmart. "I think I just have a more positive attitude because when I applied for the job, it took about a month to [get a] call for the interview. During that time, I started to get depressed and negative," Gazaille said.

After losing her job at a nursing home, Brenda Gardner of Adams said after attending the class and receiving her diploma, she will seek her true passion thanks to the career counseling: cooking. "It made me think what I want in life," she said.

About Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires
Goodwill is a community enterprise that funds job training, employment placement services and other community programs by recycling initiatives including sales of donated clothes and household items at Goodwill retail stores.  For more information, visit