Bellingham, WA is a popular tourist destination known for its easy access to outdoor recreation. In fact, the tourism industry in Bellingham is worth $646 million a year – a huge economic opportunity for locals – and yet, a large percentage of our community’s residents aren’t able to participate in this economic boom. Bellingham has a 5% unemployment rate – 9% higher than the national average – and a poverty rate of 22% – 47% higher than the national average. Job training provides excellent new economic opportunity to thousands of people, across a wide range of demographics
First rolled out in 2015, the Community Jobs Training program (CJT) provides on-the-job training to Bellingham’s underserved populations. Partnering with non-governmental organizations that focus on social, CJT has provided more than 11,500 hours to 100 individuals.
In May, 2019 we said goodbye to long-time CJT manager Andy Eddy and welcomed Darin McQuesten into the role. Darin previously held the role of General Manager for The RE Store. Here’s what Darin has to say about his involvement with our highly successful jobs training program.
What is job training?
The way I describe it, CJT offers practical hands on 1-1 training with our retail staff and salvage crew. We work with individuals that are economically displaced; single parents that need a flexible schedule, formerly incarcerated people, and homeless youth. Anyone who would benefit from soft/hard skill job training or easier access to the work place is welcome to participate in job training. Job training us usually the first step for someone looking to reenter or move up in the work force.
What drew you to this role?
Due to life events in late 2018, I was reevaluating my life and what I wanted out of my career. I felt like retail management wasn’t my career, but I loved the culture of The RE Store. The parts of my job that I was most passionate about was working with participants in the job training program. I really value the opportunity to work 1 on 1 with people in order to provide them targeted learning and productive feedback.
I recently applied for a Masters of Social Work program at Eastern Washington University. Days after I was accepted, Andy announced he was moving on and it was if my dream job had opened up. I felt like this position was a much better fit for my life trajectory and am so happy to do it here at The RE Store.
I took a personality test once and it highlighted inclusivity as one of my traits. Working with the jobs training program allows me to promote inclusivity across the workplace, both here and in the larger community.
What’s the strength of the training program?
The work culture here is really unique; supportive, growth minded, and welcoming. The main reason we succeed is that we focus on staff buy-in to ensure each trainee feels support from everyone they work with. Staff see the value it provides for the individual as well as the community. And staff have really thrived in the role of mentors, even if they don’t recognize themselves as mentors. Everyone here contributes to trainee success, from our directors to newest staff.
What should people know about job training?
Many people see social programs as a handout, and they may be hesitant about participating in them. That’s not at all what this is. Job Training is a place of learning and growth, but you get paid for the work you do.
How can our community help?
It takes a lot of resources to run a job training program successfully. We train our staff on how to act as mentors, we provide protective gear for trainees, and we help ready them for the job search. This year, we’re participating in Giving Tuesday on December 3rd. Giving Tuesday comes after Black Friday and Cyber Monday and is a day dedicated to giving back. We’re raising $1,500 to purchase safety equipment for trainees. If 100 people gave $15 we’d be able to help even more trainees achieve their career goals. What better way to celebrate the holiday than by giving others a chance to succeed?
To help us reach our goal, you can visit our donation page, tell your friends, and share our story! If you can’t wait until Giving Tuesday, consider donating today. Your help matters. It ensures that everyone has access to job training, not just those who can afford it.