Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014

Workforce WednesdayBefore becoming a high school career coach, Sarah Brown worked as a public defender, and before that, she helped struggling socioeconomic groups and dislocated workers get trained and employed. Brown has always been drawn to helping people get the support they need.

“It was really very fulfilling to see people who had no hope of turning things around for themselves,” she said.

Today, Brown brings her heart of service and experience to her job as a High School Career Coach at East Rockingham and Spotswood High Schools – both located within the Rural Horseshoe Initiative region of Virginia (begins on the Eastern Shore, stretches across Southside to Southwest Virginia and up the Shenandoah Valley).

Career CoachesAs of 2013, 1 in 4 people across parts of the Rural Horseshoe had less than a high school education. Brown and her counterparts are doing great work to ensure high school students graduate with a path in place to career success and stability.

On a normal day, you might find Brown in a classroom administering career assessments,conducting mock interviews, and teaching resume writing and soft skills.

She also works one-on-one with students who are undecided or have an interest area but no knowledge of how to pursue it.

“There is a focus on the “middle majority students” – students who aren’t planning to attend a four-year school and who might need a little more training past high school to figure out their career path and be successful in their lives.”

Brown views career coaches as the missing link between the students, employers hiring locally, and the community college.

“I have worked with students who were unaware of the opportunities out there. They are starting to realize that there are local companies hiring for jobs that are interesting and fulfilling, that require skills, but not a four- year degree. These jobs offer a lot of upward mobility. It is really neat to see students and parents realize they can stay here, make a good living and do something really interesting that is needed.”

Career coaches also work closely with local businesses to ensure students are equipped with the skills needed for specific local industries.

“Employers are really great at working with us because working together is the best outcome for everyone. They voice what they need in their workers and the community college responds with skills training, including soft skills like communication and punctuality.”

Career Coaches are on-site at the high schools, know what is happening with industry AND communicate daily with the local community colleges – completing the circle that once had a missing link.'

Amanda Christopher

Amanda Christopher is a graduate of Hollins University and Virginia Commonwealth University. A native of the DC metro area, Amanda worked in public relations for the American Red Cross before joining the Virginia Community College System as the Workforce Communications Coordinator.

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