Ark. program to provide career coaches for schools

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 4:30 PM

Forty-three "career coaches" will be placed in high schools around Arkansas next year to help students chart their college and career goals, state officials announced Monday.

The coaches will be placed in schools starting in January as part of a $10 million expansion of Arkansas Works, a state program to coordinate education, training and economic development. The three-year pilot program is funded by federal money, officials said.

Gov. Mike Beebe said the career coaches would assist existing guidance counselors at the schools by providing help to students in planning their careers and college goals.

"Our counselors are overworked in our high schools," Beebe said at a joint meeting of the state boards of education and higher education at Pulaski Tech. "We've asked our counselors to be mama and daddy and social worker, disciplinarian, sometimes health expert. We've asked them to do everything in the world without giving them additional resources."

The career coaches will be employed by the two-year colleges located in the communities where the coaches are placed. The coaches will be placed in 58 school districts in 21 counties, mostly in the Arkansas Delta, and the counties were chosen because they had either high unemployment or a low percentage of students going to college.

Beebe said the state hoped to recruit coaches from national service programs such as Teach for America and City Year, and said the state is looking for coaches with at least a bachelor's degree.

Bill Walker, director of the Arkansas Department of Career Education, said the coaches may be assigned to more than one school and will be paid an average annual salary of $40,000.

Walker said the coaches will work with guidance counselors to talk with students about ways they can pursue their career goals.

"It's so important for kids to plan early, and we believe the sooner they plan, the better they will be in terms of pursuing that career," Walker said.

The career coach program is being paid for with funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funds are also going toward the College and Career Planning System, a Web site that will help people locate jobs that fit their interests and assist businesses find qualified candidates.

Beebe said whether the state expands the career coaches program to all 75 counties in the state depends on its success and whether there's funding available after the three-year pilot program.