News Release

Building People through Job Training 

Associates learn work skills at facilities while serving others

“I've been able to bless my family. Bills will be paid. It helps … support the struggles that we have. I don't know where I would be without this program,” said Garrett Bloomquist, a production trainer at Deseret Manufacturing.

Garrett is one of dozens of employees supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' manufacturing and training facilities, which are looking for a few good workers, with no experience required. Associates get paid while they learn new job skills and establish a work history at the Humanitarian Center and nearby Deseret Manufacturing in Salt Lake City, Utah.  

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Deseret Manufacturing

“We have three different factories under the label of Deseret Manufacturing, but what we really do is we build people by building product,” said Joel Deeble, operations manager at Deseret Manufacturing, located on the west side of Salt Lake City.

“We have our associates, the trainees, that come via a bishop’s referral, and as they come into the program they are assigned one of the three areas: our sleep department, the wood manufacturing, or our sign shop,” Deeble added.

“[For] me, after high school, I struggled a bit because I struggle with autism and I was high functioning, but I also had no routine, no schedule, no plans, and no goals, and it was very hard for me to even get out of my room and get out of bed,” explained Bloomquist.

Bloomquist’s training began six years ago when he came to the facility as an associate. Now he works as a trainer to help manufacture beds.

“I run the coiling equipment. … I make the springs for mattresses. It’s one of the harder jobs in the same department,” he said.

“We make two different types of mattresses — we make a deluxe mattress and a supreme mattress. … We have basically most things you need to furnish your home,” Deeble said.

After serving time in prison and being unemployed, Neal Sharp’s bishop gave him a referral about 2½ years ago to participate Deseret Manufacturing’s work training program. Now Sharp is working as the lead on the paint line.

“I just try to keep track of all the wood that’s coming in, all the different projects that we do. My main job is just to put it through the machine to paint it. … It took me about 5½ months to learn how to run that machine. I know how to run both machines [really] well,” Sharp said. “Now if there’s another company out there that does the same thing, I can go there and work, and I already know how to run the machine.”

The new mattresses and wooden furniture are shipped to the Church’s bishops’ storehouses and Deseret Industries stores around the country to help those in need.

“The Deseret Industries stores are our retail outlet. … We have around 120 different refugee resettlement agencies that we’re supplying products for. Then we have humanitarian needs throughout the world,” Deeble said. Some recipients have been displaced from their homes due to hurricanes, floods and fires.

“It has helped me to have enough faith that I know that I can help other people out there,” Sharp said. “I’ve been on the receiving end of that, and now someone [else] needs to be on the receiving end of that. This is how I can help them.”

Humanitarian Center

Not too far away from Deseret Manufacturing in Salt Lake City is the Church’s Humanitarian Center, where associates can learn English while receiving job training. Referrals come through bishops or the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

“Even though we have the English programs and the work training programs, everybody is at their own pace. It’s not something so regimented that they’re all feeling pressured to develop at the same time,” said Randy Foote, operations manager at the Humanitarian Center.

“Many of the refugees who have come here have gone through a lot of hardships. In many cases they have fled war-torn countries, spent many years in refugee camps and sometimes even lost families,” Foote said.

“Prior to COVID, I can tell you we had 29 languages spoken here,” he said. “Because we’re a training program, our whole feeling is to try to get people to where we can then help them go out and get better jobs and become self-reliant.”

Most of the associates work in the training programs for up to year before leaving for employment.

“If somebody comes to us with some unique needs, maybe some mental health issues or other health issues, we can keep them [employed] up to three years,” Foote said.

Associates at the Humanitarian Center are paid for an eight-hour day. For half the day they work in the production area, either sorting clothes, performing custodial jobs, or working in the kitchen. For the other four hours they are paid to learn English.

The kitchen is a full-service cafeteria that provides food for both training facilities. It also has a training program.

“Those associates who are located in the kitchen are learning very specific skills that we hope are going to help them move into that type of an industry after they’re done with us,” Foote noted.

Elena Orrego came to the U.S. with her family from Peru in 2010. She is now the coordinator of the English Skills Learning Center at the Humanitarian Center.

“I was here for a short period of time, but it was an exceptional time for me because this was a unique way for me to understand how the workplace was here in the United States,” Orrego said.

“I drive a forklift, sort clothes [and conduct] quality checks,” said Kadija Mahdi, a lead associate at the Humanitarian Center, who arrived in Utah from Somalia with her family seven years ago.

Each weekday Mahdi works for four hours and spends another four hours learning English. She is also teaching others how to drive the forklift that moves bundles of donated clothing around the center for sorting. Once sorted, the Church and its partner agencies ship clothing around the world to those in need.   

The excess clothing comes to the Humanitarian Center from the Church’s Deseret Industries thrift stores. 

Amal Klito, an immigrant from Sudan, is one of the center’s success stories. Klito sorted clothing, learned how to drive the forklift, and then became a team leader at the center. She is now a certified nursing assistant.

“I’m here today to get a good life, and I hope everyone [will] come here [for] training. They can focus on what they want to do in the future,” Klito said.

“Two of the associates, Kadija and Amal, arrived here as refugees and, despite past hardships, they have really thrived and learned a great deal of new skills,” Foote concluded. “One of the biggest blessings is that this is a place where we get to see the gospel in action.”

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