Meet Jenifer Garey of Goodwill Columbus

Jenifer Garey, Director of Workforce Development, Goodwill Columbus

Jenifer Garey has over 25 years of non-profit management and public administration experience. She has a proven record of cultivating strategic relationships, leading marketing, and public relations campaigns, coordinating statewide initiatives, and has been on the forefront of developing innovative education strategies and learning tools. In addition to her role at Goodwill Columbus, she has served as an adjunct professor at Franklin University. As Director of Workforce Development at Goodwill Columbus she provides strategic and administrative leadership for all workforce training programs and personnel. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Rio Grande University in Public Relations/Communications (1990) and a Master of Arts with an emphasis on Public Administration from Ohio University (1998).

Interview with Jenifer

Describe your role at Goodwill Columbus.

I am the Director of Workforce Development and Learning at Goodwill Columbus. I provide leadership for workforce development programs that recruit job seekers from underrepresented and marginalized populations to build digital skills, work-readiness skills, provide free industry recognized credentials, and assist with job placement into their first job or next best job.

Tell us more about how Goodwill Columbus supports digital inclusion in the Columbus Region.

At the beginning of the pandemic, our career coaches quickly realized that our job seekers were experiencing barriers involving digital skills and how they were adapting to the ability to work at home, search for a job, participate in an online interview, and even apply for unemployment. Our team responded by meeting job seekers where they were at that time which included phone calls, FaceTime meetings, Zoom sessions, etc.

The job seeker still experienced trouble with a variety of digital skills that were crucial to how the world had changed. In response, we started to create short training videos that we posted on Facebook, we sent training videos via text messages, and through email when needed. The lack of digital skills was creating yet another barrier to how job seekers had to adapt to a new type of digital environment. Through our experiences we knew that as businesses and community hubs started to open up in central Ohio, GWC wanted to be present in the community with our job seekers and community members to help them gain basic digital skills.

In response to the community needs. GWC was fortunate to receive funding from The Columbus Foundation that allowed us to create strong training materials and hire a team that focused on digital inclusion. In order to position our team in the community where we could reach the most people in need, we created a partnership with The Columbus Metropolitan Library to offer classes that focused on basic computer skills. These classes included basic needs: how to set up an email, create a strong password, how to use Zoom, how to complete an online job application, how to stay connected through FaceTime, etc. GWC has had an overwhelming response to these classes since we started in late 2020. We continue to build our class schedule to include internet safety, how to use a digital wallet, etc. 

Could you share some success stories or examples of individuals or communities positively impacted by Goodwill Columbus’s digital inclusion efforts?

In the fall of 2022, one of our digital literacy coaches worked with a customer who struggled with English as a second language. Our career coach started with teaching our customer how to use Google Translate to understand the training content. Our customer attended every Tuesday class offered at Parsons for the next three or four weeks. Through a partnership between Goodwill Columbus and PC’s for People, our customer received his own personal laptop and continued to improve his digital literacy skills through GFCLearnFree and earned 15 badges to use on his resume for his job search. Over the course of the next several months, our digital skills coach continued to work with our customer to update his resume, work on interviewing skills, gain employment, and obtain pre-approval for a new home.

What gets you most excited about your work every day?

The ability to see our work come to fruition and celebrate success with our job seekers daily. Success can mean a variety of things and GWC celebrates any success as a stepping stone to someone’s first job or next best job. That success can start anywhere from meeting someone at CMLfor a digital skills class, to working with an AMP client through Ohio Means Jobs, to one of our employees completing a credential and being promoted within GWC.

Did you always know you wanted to do this as a career? Share your career path with us.

I have always had a passion for working with non-profit organizations that focused on work and education and the relationship that each has to  transforming a person’s life. Before coming to Goodwill Columbus, I worked with a local resource and referral organization that worked with early childhood educators and supported their professional development through a variety of career pathway programs. The investment in our educators and what that can bring to an early learning classroom is so important to building better outcomes for students in a K-12 environment. I am also passionate about adult education and was an adjunct professor for Franklin University for 20 years. The power of work can mean something different to every person but work can open doors to confidence in one’s self to move forward on a path towards self-sufficiency and economic mobility. 

What are you passionate about outside of work?

I am passionate about my family and volunteering for my church. I value the ability to pay it forward and work with organizations who serve a variety of basic needs.

In your view, what role does digital inclusion play in promoting overall social equity and economic empowerment for individuals and communities?

As a society we are living in a digital world that is continuing to evolve. People are working remotely, they are attending school remotely, and we are connecting to each other through a variety of social media platforms. It is more important now than ever that people have equitable access to connect to the internet and devices. Equal access to both equal success for all that need it in order to stay connected to work, to family, to finances, to healthcare, etc.

Loved reading this interview? Stay tuned for our next feature!

At the Franklin County Digital Equity Coalition, we’re dedicated to championing digital inclusion and bridging the gap in our community. Through insightful conversations like this interview, we aim to raise awareness, share experiences, and inspire positive change. To stay updated on our initiatives, events, and resources, be sure to follow us on our social media platforms and visit our website. Together, let’s work towards a more equitable and connected digital future for all.