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November is Career Development Month

The process to educate CHCCS students about their career options and development may start earlier and offer far more resources than many parents, and even staff, know. What better time to showcase the numerous paths toward career exploration and preparation than this month, Career Development Month. And the education professionals who oversee this process are the creative and dedicated career development coordinators (CDC’s) in our high schools.

Each high school has its own CDC: Cierra Hill serves students at Chapel Hill High School (CHHS), Fletcher Kieckbusch is at East Chapel Hill High School (ECHHS) and LaTonya Coley at Carrboro High School (CHS). District CDC, Robin Gallaher, supports the school CDC’s, and she also serves Phoenix Academy High School. As a team, they develop both school-specific and district-wide resources for students, as well as administer their schools’ Career Information Centers (CIC’s) and support the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and students. 

Their mission? Hill explained, “To simply put it, Career Development Coordinators work to make sure students have a plan after high school while connecting their high school coursework to their career goals.”

Kieckbusch said, “The CDC facilitates linkages with parents, business/industry, postsecondary institutions, military, and community organizations to support students' transition to postsecondary education and employment.”

Director of CTE, Kathi Breweur, said, “Many of our students enter ninth grade not knowing what they want to do after high school.  When asked, a typical student response is, ‘I plan on going to college,’ but  they don't know what their major will be. Going to college without knowing your career can be very costly.”

“Our Career Development Coordinators at each high school are an invaluable asset to the students and parents,” Breweur continued. “These support staff members are experts at helping students identify a career goal  and showing them how CTE can build their educational/work portfolio while in high school with industry credentials, internships, tuition free college courses (CCP), and more.”

8th grade career trees At each high school, the CDC is based in the CIC, but they work closely with the counselors, as well as the many CTE teachers in their schools. They maintain the CIC websites which offer abundant links to activities, newsletters, videos and publicity for upcoming events. An uninitiated viewer will likely be amazed by the numerous opportunities for students to learn about specific career paths, scholarships, internships, work-based learning (WBL) and strategies for interviewing, resume-writing and many other resources. The CDC’s can administer career interest assessments, learning styles evaluations and skills tests. They also help students learn about career paths using the CTE career trees now available in the high schools. 

Coley said, “My favorite part of the job is working one-on-one with students helping them to determine the best options for their future. I can help them by exploring career interests, post-secondary options, applying to programs, or preparing for employment.”

“I love when students participate in work-based learning (WBL) opportunities and they learn something new that really interests them, that maybe they had never thought about before,” Kieckbusch said. “They see how their interests can relate to careers and they have a new passion to learn and explore more. Through WBL, hearing from guest speakers, attending a field trip, completing an internship, students really have a chance to see first hand some of the many possibilities that are out there for them.”

“My favorite part of my job is doing career mapping with students to help them figure out what career they want to pursue and the steps they have to take to get there,” said Hill. “We may start with a career interest inventory to pinpoint a career before determining the best coursework and post-secondary track for them.” 

“Exposure is really important for helping students make informed decisions about their career choice,” Hill said. “In 2018, I began having Lunch & Learn Career Series at Chapel Hill High School in collaboration with the Chapel Hill PTSA. Students were able to sit and have lunch with various professionals while learning about their career journeys. Student participation was very high for these events!  This year with us moving to remote learning, we've been able to expand the Lunch & Learn events throughout the district by inviting all students from each high school and even the middle schools. The collaborative efforts between the high school CDCs have given the students the opportunity to meet with two to four professionals a week. Many of the guest speakers we scheduled are from the industries requested by the students who completed our survey at the beginning of the school year.” 

CIC presentation The Lunch & Learn sessions usually take place at noon or 12:30 on Wednesdays, since students have a flex schedule that day. Each presentation lasts 30 minutes, with professionals offering an overview of their chosen career and then answering questions from students. During the week of November 16, students could choose to hear from a local realtor, a representative from the Air Force ROTC and Abigail McAlister, the CHCCS liaison with Durham Technical Community College, as she described the industrial technology certificates and degrees.

The CDC’s can explain the different pathways in CTE, from Audio and Video Production to Computer Engineering Technologies and Public Safety: Firefighting and EMT. They assist students with selecting appropriate academic and CTE courses, as well as coordinating CTE career planning activities in classrooms or for groups or individuals.

Kieckbusch said, “This month I have been going into the CTE classes (virtually) with the assistance of our special populations coordinator (SPC) to talk to students about their interests and career goals. We are having students complete a Holland Code Interest Inventory on and talking about how their personality type aligns to various careers.”

As just one example, the week of November 16-21 is Health Professions Week, and students can register for a virtual fair on November 21. More than 20 sessions will be offered that day, covering health professions from athletic trainer to anesthesiologist to physician’s assistant and more other careers.

Gallaher expressed excitement about new and upcoming opportunities to further broaden students’ career exploration. The platform Nepris will allow students and staff to experience a network of industry professionals who introduce real-world context and examples to classrooms and virtual learning environments. Nepris provides daily choices for live-chats on topics as diverse as careers in weather forecasting, “Samsung Careers in the Trades,” working on emerging technologies and internship opportunities in Youth Employment Project. Nepris training is already underway in our high schools. “Kathi has done a great job making sure we have a range of effective platforms,” said Gallaher. 

The nonprofit describes the role of CDC’s as the glue between traditional academic counseling and career development. Their website notes, “They connect the dots for your future - your CDC is the person in the Career and Technical Education department that you want to know in high school to help you explore your future career interest and connect you with career professionals.”

North Carolina Governor proclaimed November 18 as NC Career Development Coordinator Day, but it’s never too late to say “Thank you” to these important support staff in the high schools!