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Career coaching makes vital difference

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By John Barnhart

    Finding the right career is more vital than ever. To help with that, students at Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) can take advantage of the services of a career coach.

    Wanda Sadler, divides her time between CVCC’s main campus, in Lynchburg, and its Bedford campus.
    “That has always been a passion of mine,” said Sadler, explaining her career choice.
    So, what is a career coach?
    Sadler works with adults and her first task is to use computer software, called “Virginia Education Wizard,” a Virginia Community College System (VCCS) tool, to assess a client’s interests, skills and values. The software also identifies currently in-demand careers, particularly what’s in demand in this area. The idea is to determine the types of work the person, with whom she is working, is well suited for.
    The software looks at 16 career clusters, each with multiple occupations, and presents the top three clusters for Sadler’s client to consider.
    Then, Sadler helps her client figure out what type of education he will need for the occupation he’s interested in. She also helps her client figure out how he’s going to pay for it. Part of Sadler’s job is to be aware of tuition aid or workforce training programs her client may not know about.
    Sadler has a master’s degree in occupation and technology studies from Old Dominion University. She also brings personal experience to the job. Sadler worked in private industry until she was downsized out of her job in 1995. She had worked for the company for 23 years.
    “I know what it’s like to be a displaced worker,” she said.
    It’s that experience, and her efforts to deal with it, that led her to become a career coach. Her work is her passion.
    Juanita Smith, who lives in Bedford, is one of Sadler’s clients. Smith was laid off in 2012 and decided to look into going back to school. She has a manufacturing background, but half of the workforce, between 500 and 600 people, at her pervious employer were laid off over a two-year period. That, combined with the fact she had already been downsized out of a prior manufacturing job, made her decide she needed to do something different.
    Smith got in contact with Sadler through the Region 2000 Work Force Center. She went through the Virginia Education Wizard assessment and had multiple meetings with Sadler to determine both her short-term and long-term goals. Smith noted that the assessment focused on skills that apply to jobs that actually exist.
    She said Sadler helped her develop a career action training plan — a list of what she has to do to get the credentials she needs. The plan has a timeline with set times for accomplishing the plan’s goals.
    “That’s where I started looking at the financial aspect,” Smith said.
    Smith had some challenges. She had a 7-year-old child and she had not been back to school for several years.
    Once Smith exhausted financial aid available through CVCC, she had to find other ways to get funding. Sadler made her aware of financial aid options she didn’t know existed.
    Smith, who wants to become a social worker, said career coaching was vital and helped her discover options for her future.
    “I think I’d be back in a factory job, not going back for a four-year degree,” Smith said, describing where she would be without career coaching.