SANFORD - Dozens of career coaches traveled to the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center late last month to learn all about their new jobs with NC Works. They came from as far away as Flat Rock in the mountains and Greenville on the coast, but they all were beginning their work in Sanford, where the new statewide initiative was born.
The NC Works Career Coach Program, as it's called in the authorizing legislation, places coaches in high schools to help students define their career goals and find community college courses that can help them succeed. Though they're based in high schools, coaches are hired and paid by the local colleges using state funding directed through grants awarded by the State Board of Community Colleges.
NC Works derives from the successful Central Carolina Works, which was launched three years ago in Chatham, Harnett, and Lee counties by a consortium including Central Carolina Community College, local school districts, area businesses, and community leaders.
Under the local plan, college coaches work one-on-one with students to find college courses that help them achieve their career and academic goals. Students can then enroll in college credit courses that also apply toward their high school diploma.
Though the statewide version is focused more on connecting students with career opportunities than helping them actually enroll, CCCC Director of Secondary Partnerships Virginia Mallory says Central Carolina Works provided an attractive model for the entire state.
"Central Carolina Works is making a significant and positive impact on our region," she says. "It's been a true community partnership and one that has helped students and teachers connect in a meaningful way with business, industry, and the community college. That's an approach that can benefit everyone."
While the model was devised locally, the general idea of placing advisors in high schools isn't unique to this area. Mallory points to Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, which provides "transition advisors" organized by Director of Counseling and Advisement Services Shannon Brown to help high school students move smoothly from high school to community college.
Because of their experience, officials from Caldwell and Central Carolina community colleges worked together to plan and conduct the first-ever NC Works career coach orientation held in Sanford. The daylong session outlined expectations for the program, provided details about how everything would operate, and gave helpful advice for how advisors can connect effectively with business and industry.
It had a distinct local flavor. Dr. Lisa Chapman, who worked at Central Carolina Community College for 27 years, represented the North Carolina Community College System as its senior vice president and chief academic officer. Kirk Bradley, chairman, president and CEO of Lee-Moore Capital Company, moderated a panel on business and industry -- a group that included Mertek Solutions President Jerry Pedley, Lee County High School Career Development Coordinator Alison Poole, CCCC Business Services Coordinator Angie Stewart, and Caterpillar Fabrications Operations Manager Martin Kegel.
CCCC President Dr. T. Eston Marchant opened the event with Dena Holman, vice president of student services for Caldwell Technical Institute and Community College.
Other participants included Lynn Hartley, career and technical education director for Harnett County Schools; Stephanie Ayers, Advanced Manufacturing and Skills Training Alliance project manager with Vance-Granville Community College; and Susan Pope, career development coordinator at Hibriten High School in Lenoir.
By the time this inaugural orientation session wound to a close, it covered a lot of ground, including its fair share of narrow and technical issues. But Chapman wanted to make sure the important things weren't lost in all the detail. And those, she said, were the need to collaborate with colleagues and industry and the importance of focusing on students and their success.
"It's students first," she told the new NC Works counselors. "Always. Always. Always. Always."
Moderator Kirk Bradley (left), chairman, president and CEO of Lee-Moore Capital Company, and panelist Jerry Pedley, president of Mertek Solutions in Sanford, were part of a group discussing how community colleges can collaborate with industry and help students prepare for a successful career in manufacturing.
Presenters representing organizations statewide discuss workforce education during a morning break at the NC Works Career Coach Orientation in Sanford. They are, from left: Shannon Brown, director of counseling and advisement services for Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson; Catherine Moga Bryant, deputy assistant secretary in the Division of Workforce Solutions at the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Dr. Lisa Chapman, senior vice president and chief academic officer for the North Carolina Community College System; and Virginia Mallory, director of secondary partnerships at Central Carolina Community College.