Career Coaches Empower New Opportunities

Posted on 10/20/2023
Career Coaches Empower Students to Explore New Opportunities

Students have even more opportunities to explore career pathways and areas of interest, thanks to the launch of the Career Coaches program in several Weakley County Schools this school year.

The new program was established to help students connect with career opportunities, customize their areas of interest, and to plan for a successful future.

“It’s so important to remember that every student is unique, and the workforce demands have changed drastically since the pandemic,” said Career and Technical Education Director Kandace Jackson. “Students are now taking a closer look at different career options, and we want all students to be prepared to make educated decisions about all of these new opportunities.”

Each Career Coach works with students at all levels with concentrated efforts on middle and high school. At the middle school level, coaches provide career development guidance, assist students with career exploration activities and assessments, and work with students to explore career opportunities. The goal is to support students in making the most educated decision about their focus of study for the most effective and interesting high school experience. At the high school level, students are introduced to as many real-world learning experiences as possible through work-based learning, business and industry tours, employment skills workshops, industry certifications, building connections, and more.

Jackson added, “Many students have already entered the workforce while in high school and want to transition to a full-time position after graduation. Whether it’s a post-secondary educational opportunity or going directly to work, it’s our mission to help students explore as many possibilities and areas of interest as we can. Career Coaches are specialized in helping students explore every avenue.”

The implementation of a new online resource, YouScience, helps expand students’ vision of opportunities through assessments that measure personal aptitudes through brain games and other engaging activities.

career coaches graphic has smiling individuals representing each school

Christy Norton has taken on the role of Career Coach at Westview High School. She believes that offering a variety of options and resources to students can unlock curiosity about professions and a desire to learn more.

“I’m so excited about my role as a Career Coach because I’m passionate about helping students see that the workplace landscape is wide open. In the past, conversations concerning career paths were focused more on students' interests, which are often limited. Through YouScience, students can begin taking assessments in 8th grade. Introducing students to new resources and possibilities opens the conversation and helps students view career choices in a new light,” Norton explained.

Career Coaches will administer assessments using results to point students in the right direction of the career path that aligns with their skills. They plan guest speakers, field trips, and other learning opportunities for the students specifically based on assessment results. The goal is to advance students’ thoughts, questions, and interests in career planning.

Sherry Page, Greenfield High’s Career Coach, knows that student support is crucial.

“Student support doesn’t end at graduation. Our hope is to always help prepare students to succeed in a career anywhere, but also right here in our county,” said Page. “With YouScience, once a student creates an account and completes an assessment, that online account can be utilized for 10 years. Career planning can continue through high school and beyond. Knowing that your school is investing in you and care about your success can mean a lot to a student,” she acknowledged.

Weakley County Schools’ Career Coaches were hired through the Innovative Schools Model Grant.

Grants Director Angie Rushing is the administrator of the grant and facilitates aspects of the Career Coach program.

“I look forward to seeing all that we will accomplish together in support of our students this year. Career Coaches are an amazing resource for our teachers and students and will be key to bringing in guest speakers for students grades K-12. We are very excited to build up our work-based learning options and will work hard to strengthen relationships with leaders in business, industry, as well as educational institutions,” Rushing stated.

The district’s Career Coach team is made up of Mindy Thomas at Dresden Middle, Bonny Cannon at Dresden High, Alivia McDowell at Gleason School, Alyse Darby at Greenfield Middle, Sherry Page at Greenfield High, Lydia Hazlewood at Sharon School, Christy Norton at Westview High, District Grants Director Angie Rushing, and CTE Director Kandace Jackson.

Assistant Director of Schools Betsi Foster said that the implementation of Career Coaches in the schools has been a goal for a long time.

“Planning for the future looks completely different than it did 10 years ago. Career Coaches do so much to help inform students and connect them with real world opportunities for the variety of careers that are available out in this world. They work to build strong foundation for workplace readiness skills, strengthen partnerships with local business and industry to provide continuous learning options for students, coordinate exploration events and training opportunities, and connect teachers with leaders in the community to encourage student and industry interaction. It’s a win-win for students, industry and business leaders, and the community,” said Foster.

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