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Breaking Down Barriers; Building Up People

Irvin Terrell
Construction Training Coordinator

Irvin Terrell works with students in Goodwill’s nationally certified Construction and Weatherization Training program. He works closely with program instructor Tim Kahn, helping to teach students critical skills in multiple areas: safety, construction math, hand and power tools, blueprints, rigging, weatherization, communication and employability skills. 

Following a period of incarceration, Irvin, 45, was looking for a second chance at a career. He heard about Goodwill’s construction training program from a friend, and within one week of being released, he had already enrolled. After completing the program, Irvin landed a job and was working the night shift. About two years ago, Kahn called Irvin to see if he could help out with classes during the daytime. Irvin happily accepted. He loves working with the construction students and seeing them succeed. According to Kahn, “There have been many occasions where Irvin has taken students to their jobs, court dates, and even pitched in to help them complete their first construction projects.” Irvin is an integral part of the construction training program and will continue to assist with classes following their move back to Goodwill’s Cockrill Bend location. The space will be open for classes in January 2020 and will feature updated workstations and weatherization training through a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“Irvin epitomizes what the construction program is all about,” says Kahn. “He has a keen understanding of what our students need and always does much more than anyone would ever ask of him.”

What brought you to Goodwill?

I had just been released from prison and heard about Goodwill’s construction training program. Within that first week of getting out, I visited Career Solutions, and I’ve been around ever since. 

What are some of the challenges you face? 

I love working with the students in the construction program, but sometimes it’s a challenge to find students who are truly ready for a fresh start. They have to want to do the work to succeed and make positive changes.

What has surprised you the most in your time with Goodwill?

Everyone has a different story and background. One thing that surprises me most is the amount of companies that don’t want to give someone a second chance. I was lucky to get one from Goodwill, and it has helped me. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like seeing the students learn different skills as they go through the construction program. And then, going on to complete their training, get jobs and accomplish their goals. It’s inspirational.

Why is your job important to Goodwill’s mission?

I’m playing a part that helps people get what they need to succeed. This class is a great second chance for the students to learn skills that will help them get employed. I like being part of that. 

How do you change lives? 

I am helping give people a hand up, not a handout. I was given a second chance, and an opportunity to turn my life around. It feels good to help someone else with their second chance. 

Who is a Goodwill client?

A Goodwill client is any person who comes to Goodwill needing help determining a job or career in which they have a probability of being successful. Goodwill does this through education, training and employment, in addition to helping individuals secure other resources they need to live successfully in the community. Goodwill employs many clients in its stores and donation centers. In fact, nearly 90 percent of employees came to Goodwill because of its mission.

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