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Career Coach Funding Approved for College

PCC Career Coaches Arriana Kinsey, Lynn Lee and Natasha Worthington, left to right, help students at each of Pitt County's six public high schools identify career goals and the college programs that will prepare them for those jobs.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College received notification last week that the State Board of Community Colleges has approved its request for NCWorks Career Coach funding.

According to Lisa Chapman, N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) senior vice president/chief academic officer, PCC will receive $107,142 to support the three career coaches it hired in 2016. The funds, she said, will go toward their salaries, benefits and travel expenses.

Pitt’s funding is part of the $1 million that NCCCS has allotted for the 2017-18 fiscal year to match non-state funds needed for implementation of the NCWorks Career Coach Program. Another $1 million has been designated for 2018-19, with the college expected to receive another $107,142.

PCC, which sought the funding in partnership with Pitt County Schools, is one of 15 North Carolina community colleges selected to receive the career coach funds. It is one of only three institutions in the state, along with Forsyth Tech and Lenoir Community College, to have three career coaches.

Established in the fall of 2015, the NCWorks Career Coach Program places community college personnel in high schools to assist students with determining career goals and selecting the correct college programs to train for those jobs. The objective is to establish a seamless system for student achievement and economic prosperity.

“As career coaches, we help students learn about programs that will interest them, so they can become more employable and make a better wage than someone with just a high school education,” said PCC Career Coach Lynn Lee.

In all, there are 28 career coaches in the Tar Heel State, and they began preparing for their duties last spring by attending an orientation meeting that focused on the program’s purpose and expectations and best practices for connecting students to career pathways. They also had a chance to hear directly from business and industry representatives, high school career development coordinators, the N.C. Department of Commerce, and the North Carolina Chamber.

In addition to Lee, Arriana Kinsey and Natasha Worthington are PCC career coaches. Collectively, they are part of the college’s response to recommendations it received from the Aspen Institute in late 2015 on how to revamp the ‘front door’ experience for new students and revitalize efforts to improve student program completion.

Each PCC career coach is assigned to two Pitt County public high schools and has an office at both locations. Lee works with students at Farmville Central and South Central, Kinsey with students at J.H. Rose and North Pitt, and Worthington with Ayden-Grifton and D.H. Conley students.

“The students at my schools have been eager to learn about careers suited to their personality and talents, and, as a result, my calendar stays full,” Lee said. “The Pitt County Schools’ staff has been very welcoming; they send students my way because they are aware of the need for post-secondary training.”

Lee says many of the students she encounters simply don’t believe they can go to college, whether it’s a financial issue or failure to reach their potential in high school courses. She said one student, in particular, stands out.

“I talked to this student several times, and, frankly, he was just tired of school, tired of sitting behind a desk,” she said. “Not everyone is designed to learn that way.”

After participating in Community College Gear Up Day at PCC, Lee said the student has come full circle.

“He toured the Construction and Industrial Technology Division and got to see the equipment they work with, the things they get to make, and the instant gratification the students had,” she said. “For the first time in a long time, he was excited about continuing his education, because it didn’t just mean reading books and listening to lectures. The students he observed at PCC were able to create, use their hands and learn skills needed in today’s workforce.”

In addition to helping students make informed decisions about college and employment, career coaches help make sure the high schools, PCC and local workforce demands are in alignment with regard to programming.

“There are many jobs available in North Carolina that can’t be filled, because the workforce doesn’t have the skills or has not been trained in these areas,” Lee said. “It’s time to start training our workforce for these positions and make a difference here in North Carolina.”

While state leaders want 67 percent of North Carolina’s working-aged individuals to have education and training beyond high school by 2025, Lee’s goal is for every Pitt County high school graduate to have a plan when they walk across the stage in June.

“There are jobs out there that need to be filled,” she said. “PCC’s career coaches are keeping up with job market information and making sure students are aware of the degrees and programs that will not only make them employable but lead to jobs with incomes that make them self-sufficient.”