FOLEY - Remember being a high schooler, with the whole world stretching before you? Sometimes it can seem daunting to know how many successes and challenges await you in the future, unsure which path will take you where. That’s why in all Baldwin County Schools today are career coaches who specialize in helping students on their path to success, no matter what that may be. Beginning with only 24 career coaches in secondary schools back in 2013, there are now a total of 94 in Alabama alone.
One such career coach, Morrell Baxter, works with Foley and Daphne High Schools, with 450 seniors at Foley High alone. Though career coaches work mainly with seniors, they also visit younger classes and get them thinking about the future.
“I’ll go into the classes and my career prep classes and talk to the students about how to dress professionally for an interview, we’ve done mock interviews with the freshmen, we’ve done resume workshops, and we discuss anything that concerns either college or a career,” Baxter said.
She works with students on how to perform a great interview, including attire, body language, posture and poise, eye contact, handshake, and spoken language. Her students then give mock interviews at the end of a semester which counts as half of their final grade. Industry professionals have come to the school to sit down with the students and interview them as if they were applying for a position, giving students a feel for what a job interview is like.
Industry speakers are brought into the schools to speak about career tech programs, exposing kids to a number of opportunities.
“We have a shortage of technical field jobs and a lot of people who are in technical fields are at retiring age,” Baxter said. “They’re having an issue because not a lot of students are going into these programs to replace them, so one thing I do is try to market to these students that you can go to dual enrollment in high school, graduate with 15-hours of college credits in aviation maintenance, then be done with the program in a year and a half and be making $50,000 or more at the age of 19.”
Baxter said tech programs that used to have three kids signed up now have a waiting list to get in as so many students are interested in the programs. Industry partners, such as Collins Aerospace and ST Aerospace, and the South Baldwin Chamber have been instrumental in helping the career tech program in Foley expand.
“That’s what I do, I link business and industry up with the school system,” Baxter said. “We try to expose students early and let them know all their options that are out there. There’s not just a four-year path anymore.”
Career coaches present students with personality tests to determine some of their main interests, and then discuss ways to make a career out of their strengths and passions. Baxter says it’s important for students to explore multiple career options before settling on one, lest they go to college and realize halfway through that their chosen major isn’t the one for them.
College and industry tours are a big part in allowing students an opportunity to see what the workforce looks like, and job shadowing programs are offered as well. Students have been able to learn how to dress professionally, take a business lunch trip to Wolf Bay Restaurant to dine in a professional setting, and meet a number of industry leaders in the community. Younger students take part in a “reality check,” where they’re given a salary, payments such as vehicle and mortgage, a family, and then allowed to decide how to use their salary to support themselves, their family, and pay all their bills.
To learn more about career coaches and everything they offer, visit https://baldwincountycareercoaches.weebly.com.