Battle Creek EDGE puts low-income families on path to economic security

Toda | W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Thomas Cook | W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Charmika Robinson | W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Financial Opportunity Center

Goodwill Industries of Central Michigan’s Heartland is tapping community resources to develop skilled workers and connect them to employment.

Established in 2013, Goodwill’s EDGE – or Essential Skills Demanded by Great Employers – helps low-income residents in Battle Creek, Michigan, enter the workforce with job and financial literacy training, said Ken Bauer, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Michigan’s Heartland, Inc.

“Over time we’ve been very invested in working with the population,” Bauer said. “We’re learning more and more how to serve people.”

The EDGE program, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, partners with Battle Creek Unlimited, Goodwill Industries, Kellogg Community College and Michigan Works! to offer a comprehensive eight-week  job training class.  EDGE participants also take classes at Goodwill’s Financial Opportunity Center for up to four years, becoming financially literate and learning to save money and improve their credit scores.

Around 83 percent of EDGE students continue to be employed for at least a year after graduation and 53 percent of participants have increased their credit scores.

“The idea was now that we are able to provide a steady source of income for participants who graduated from the program, it was really important for us to look at their interaction with financial institutions,” Bauer said.

Battle Creek Unlimited, the economic development organization for the City of Battle Creek, identifies local companies interested in partnering with the program and hiring graduates. Michigan Works!, the state’s workforce development office, recruits eligible participants. Kellogg Community College creates a classroom curriculum, customized to meet the hiring needs of company partners, and Goodwill Industries of Central Michigan’s Heartland, Inc., provides an environment where students can apply the skills they learn in class.

“When you put those four players together and you continue to work to improve the program, then you are able to have the kind of outward results that we’ve had,” Bauer said, adding that 170 people have participated in the program since its launch.

The program’s success is enhanced by the Michigan Works! intake and retention coaches, who work with EDGE students and employers the first year to help navigate the training and transition to sustained employment.

“They’re positive peer networks for the populations that we serve, and participants always know that they have someone standing in their corner,” said Jerry Mainstone, vice president of Workforce Development and Community Relations for Goodwill Industries of Central Michigan’s Heartland, Inc.

The EDGE collaborative also helps participants find affordable, dependable professional daycare, and offers childcare scholarships to high-quality, dependable centers.

Charmika Robinson, a single mother of three who lives in Battle Creek, is one of EDGE’s many success stories. But before she enrolled in the EDGE program in 2014, Robinson was unemployed, facing eviction and “feeling like there was no hope for the future.”

One of 13 students in her EDGE class, she and her classmates earned a small stipend during the program, learned professional etiquette, conflict management and technical and administrative skills and also got a job with a local food manufacturer at the end of the program. Her EDGE coach helped her find childcare, so she could complete the program.

“The skills that I learned in the program are skills that I can use on an everyday basis,” said Robinson, who works full time as an entry-level production associate. “I never thought that my life would’ve turned out this way … Sometimes I feel like it’s too good to be true.” 


Grant Details

Goodwill Industries of Central Michigan's Heartland Inc.

Battle Creek, Michigan, United States

Increase employment readiness, access to quality jobs, and economic security for low-income populations by implementing a demand-driven cross-sector workforce development program and bundled services

Working Families
Jan. 1, 2013 - Dec. 31, 2017

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“Empleen el dinero del modo en que crean conveniente, siempre y cuando promueva la salud, la felicidad y el bienestar de los niños.” - Will Keith Kellogg

“Sèvi ak lajan an jan w vle depi se sante timoun, byennèt timoun ak kè kontan pou timoun w ap ankouraje.” - W.K. Kelòg