WRAP (Work Readiness Assistance Program) is the informal moniker for TCC’s career coaching portion of the statewide Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the Department of Labor. One of the purposes of the multi-faceted $24 million grant is to assist trade-impacted workers, dislocated workers and adults seeking education, training and employment in the health sciences and other occupational and technical training programs. The grant aims to improve achievement and retention rates for these students. TCC leads the effort for the consortium of the 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System.
TCC’s two career coaches Stacy Davidson (Chesapeake, Virginia Beach) and Terrence Bowers (Norfolk, Portsmouth) work with the college’s experiential learning/job placement coordinators Pamela Cornell (Chesapeake, Virginia Beach) and Heather Kitsis (Norfolk, Portsmouth) to offer two phases of service.
Initially, the career coach acts as a navigator, assisting clients with decisions about possible programs of study and helps with admissions, financial aid and registration.
The second phase involves finding clients real-world experience, whether through job shadowing, externships, internships or ideally part- or full-time jobs. Assisting clients with soft skills – resume writing, working a job fair — is another component.
Kitsis saw her first client in October and estimates since that the grant has helped more than 130. Because of the demographic of Hampton Roads, most have not been trade-affected. Many are struggling with unemployment or underemployment, such as Robertson.
The modeling and simulation student saw his job repairing computers as a dead end. Kitsis found Robertson an internship at MYMIC, a high technology development and service company in Portsmouth with a customer base that includes the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. Robertson interned two weeks before being offered a full-time position as a game developer.
“If I hadn’t noticed the flier at the Portsmouth Campus, I wouldn’t have known about this,” Robertson said.
Kitsis, who helped Robertson with his resume and funding options for TCC, is thrilled with the end result. Her door is open to anyone, she says, and while a full-time job might be the ultimate goal, she encourages those she works with to consider any actual experience working in the field of their choice as a plus that can pay off down the road.
“I am not a temp agency,” she says. “The whole construction of the career coaching piece is to take someone through a long-term process – sometimes three months – and teach them how to best market themselves, so when they leave here, they can do it on their own.”