A panel tasked with eliminating unfunded state mandates recommends that we stop requiring our public school students to create career and college plans. With respect to the panel, that idea is harmful to our children and their future. Two out of every three jobs available in Virginia will require a college credential before the end of the decade. That is the reality into which our students will graduate.
Instead of eliminating career and college planning, we should expand it and we can with some creative partnerships.
We challenge our students to dream big as they work through Pulaski County Public Schools. Thanks to our partnership with New River Community College, our students have more tools than ever before to pursue those dreams. Further, that collaboration ensures that the material we teach our young people is applicable to the careers available in a rapidly changing economy.
Innovative programs within that partnership are helping students connect their studies directly to good-paying jobs and even earn an associate’s degree, sub-associate’s credential or even a bachelor’s degree from a university. Perhaps the best part is the access our students have to an expert that can help them chart the way, a community college Career Coach.
Career Coaches are community college employees who work in our public high schools. They help students create career and college plans, often helping families understand just how accessible and affordable college can be. They supplement what our school counselors can provide.
Often guidance counselors are busy assisting students with academic and personal needs, leaving little time to assist them with exploring their academic and career options,” Vest states. “There’s not enough hours in the day to meet the needs of every student. The Career Coach steps in and compliments our work,” said Pulaski County High School Lead Guidance Counselor Chrissi Vest.
Here in Pulaski County, our Career Coach is part of our team that provides a comprehensive network of support for students.
Many of my students are potential first generation college students, so it’s important for me to assist students on how to navigate the transition from high school to workforce or higher education opportunities,” said Kathy Kleppin, the Career Coach serving PCHS.
Our Career Coach begins each year by creating awareness about the services she provides and building relationships with students and families. She uses technology to keep in constant touch and she uses tools like the Virginia Education Wizard, a free online career education resource developed by Virginia’s Community Colleges. The Wizard allows students to create a profile to explore careers that connect with their interests and abilities, the education necessary to access those careers and even how to pay for that pursuit.
Career Coaches also help our teachers integrate career education concepts throughout their classes by providing valuable professional development, resources, and technical assistance. This strategic focus on career education awareness is not just for our students, but it involves our school leaders, teachers, counselors, staff members, families, and other community partners. It is important that we are all aware of the abundant current and future career opportunities that exist for our students.
We are not alone when it comes to understanding the value of these Career Coaches.
The State Superintendent of Louisiana, John White, recently asked a high school counselor about the frequency in which she met with students to discuss their careers, goals and options. To his amazement, the counselor answered that she might typically meet with a student one time over the course of four years for career counseling services. White described the encounter as a “humbling experience” and demanded immediate changes, namely adopting the Career Coach model created here in Virginia.
Our partnership with the community college provides a link for students and families to the resources they need to see beyond high school. This college and career focus provides an achievable transition from their K-12 experience.
Students need a goal beyond high school graduation. We all recognize that merely improving our graduation rate is not enough; we have to prepare our students to be college and workforce ready.
Jamie Escalante was right when he said that students rise to the level of expectations set for them by the adults in their lives. If we fail to provide them with high expectations and the necessary resources to dream big, then we fail to provide them with the benefit of a true education. Increasingly, Career Coaches are essential to helping us deliver that benefit.
Dr. Thomas Brewster is the superintendent of Pulaski County Public Schools. Dr. a member of the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 276-970-1884.