Shared from the 8/29/2016 Gaston Gazette eEdition


Career Coaches

New program to helps students plan their future


A grant received by Gaston College will fund two NCWorks Career Coaches working with students at Gaston and Lincoln county high schools. Becky Smykowski, left, will serve Lincoln County and Misti Elting will support Gaston County.

Attachment #1: (L to R) A grant received by Gaston College will fund two NCWorks Career Coaches working with students at Gaston and Lincoln county high schools. Becky Smykowski will serve Lincoln County and Misti Elting will support Gaston County.

Gaston College receives a grant funding NCWorks Career Coaches to assist students in Gaston and Lincoln County high schools

In February 2016, Gaston College received a grant from the State Board of Community Colleges to fund two NCWorks Career Coaches to work with students at Gaston and Lincoln county high schools. Misti Elting will serve in Gaston County and Becky Smykowski will support Lincoln County.

The purpose of the NCWorks Career Coach Program is to place career coaches in high schools to assist students with determining career goals and identifying community college programs that would enable the students to achieve those goals. The State Board of Community Colleges invited all 58 community colleges in North Carolina to apply for the NCWorks Career Coach Program grants; Gaston College was one of 14 that received the grant.

The grant to Gaston College provided funding for the second half of the 2015-2016 school year and for the full 2016-2017 school year. The grant covers 50 percent of the coaches’ salary and benefits; Gaston College contributes 25 percent and the remaining 25 percent is covered by the Gaston County or Lincoln County school systems.

As part of their grant applications, the community colleges were required to submit a professional development plan outlining the proposed training for their NCWorks Career Coaches. The Gaston College plan included a 120-hour course that the two coaches completed to become certified career development facilitators. Elting and Smykowski also had intensive training at Gaston College on the college’s curriculum programs, the Career and College Promise program, and the registration process. In addition, they have visited local industries to learn about employer needs, job availability, training and education requirements, wages, benefits, and relationship-building.

Before transitioning to her role as NCWorks Career Coach, Elting worked as a student recruiter at Gaston College for 5 ½ years. She saw the new position as a great opportunity to blend what she already knows about post-secondary education with career development.

“My main objective is to give students information that will enable them to make informed decisions regarding their educational and career paths,” she said. “Students and parents need to know that there are multiple viable paths available to help students reach their career goals.”

Smykowski has more than 11 years of experience in the classroom — most recently as a high school math and science teacher.

“I love working with young adults and I’m looking forward to helping the students in Lincoln County,” she said. “We hope to impact students in making smart career choices based on their interests and abilities as well as local labor market trends. We will then work with those students to map out a plan for getting to that goal.”

The terms of the grant require that the career coaches spend at least 30 hours per week working with high school students. The Gaston County and Lincoln County school systems decided where and how those hours would be applied. Elting will work 10 hours a week at each of three high schools in Gaston County: Bessemer City, Hunter Huss, and North Gaston. Her other hours will be devoted to planning, research, and administrative responsibilities. Smykowski will divide her time among Asbury Academy, East Lincoln, Lincolnton, North Lincoln, and West Lincoln high schools in Lincoln County, and also on the other responsibilities of the coaching position.

“We will be working with students at all high school grade levels,” said Elting. “Our goal is to guide them to the many available resources and educational and training opportunities that will make them career-ready.”

Smykowski added, “Obviously, attending a four-year college or university is a great goal, but there are many jobs and careers that can be reached without the traditional fouryear university degree. And even if students do want to earn that four-year degree, there are multiple ways of earning it.”

Jennifer Nichols, Director of Admissions and Counseling at Gaston College, will oversee the NCWorks Career Coach program.

“With this program,” she said, “we hope to give students all the information they need to make informed decisions about their futures. Information about Career and College Promise, college transfer, and the local area labor market job needs could really help students during their career planning process.”

She believes the program will bring awareness of the many different pathways and opportunities that are available to students in Gaston and Lincoln counties.

“At Gaston College, we are very excited about this new partnership with Gaston and Lincoln County schools,” said Nichols. “We are looking forward to our first year of working with students, their parents, and the faculty and staff at the high schools.”

For more information about the NCWorks Career Coaches program at Gaston College, contact Jennifer Nichols at or 704-922-6223.

See this article in the e-Edition Here