Goodwill Industries of Tulsa started Vocational Training Program with expanded jobs-training space

With a ribbon-cutting, a crowd’s applause and three forklifts competing in a series of skill-testing maneuvers, Goodwill Industries of Tulsa opened the Edgar J. Helms Center.

Located at 2740 Southwest Blvd, the facility is named for the organization’s founder and will be home to the shipping and receiving training program; Contract Services, a pre-vocational training program and the forklift training program.

Goodwill Industries acquired the building so it could increase the number of people it serves, President David Oliver said. The new building also allows the organization to expand the forklift training program, one of many programs that are part of Goodwill TulsaWORKS, which provides specific skills for in-demand jobs. The forklift training program, which has outgrown its current warehouse space, can accommodate 18 students per class, which are offered monthly from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for three Saturdays. Students who enroll in the forklift training program find good-paying careers in the warehouse industry, TulsaWORKS coordinator Christina Ward said.

There is almost always a wait list for enrollment, Ward said. With the additional space, the program will be able train students using four different machines, as opposed to one, and provide more opportunities for quality, hands-on learning. “We’ve needed to expand the forklift training program for years,” Ward said. “Opening this building means great things for our program, our students and the employers that are going to hire them.”

To highlight the forklift training program at the building’s opening, organizers hosted a “Forklift Rodeo,” where Goodwill employees used three different forklifts to show the balance and precision needed to operate them. The employees demonstrated their skills through a basketball challenge, a pallet round up and a barrel race.

“The whole purpose is to show off that we have this kind of training in Tulsa, that we have this equipment,” TulsaWORKS Director Sabrina Ware said. “The mission is to help people find employment. We offer various different training programs. Forklifts is just one of them.”

The forklift training program will share the building with 32 Contract Services workers and their instructors. For the last 15 years, the program has been located in a rented space. “We’re growing possibilities, and those possibilities are for jobs and job training for people with disabilities or disadvantaging conditions,” Oliver said.

In addition to providing vocational work-skills training, Contract Services performs packaging, pre-assembling and labeling jobs, among other tasks, for businesses. Contract Services workers do anything from assembling Triple AAA member kits to labeling bottles of Aircraft Specialties Services oil. “They get paid for what they do,” program director Gail Ball said. “We encourage pride in their work, building their skills, setting goals. These guys go home and know they earned that paycheck.”

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