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— Beginning in January, high school guidance counselors in 58 Arkansas school districts will get a helping hand from career coaches.

Technically the career coaches will be employees of local two-year colleges. They will work at high schools in 21 Arkansas counties with high unemployment, or where relatively few high school graduates go on to college.

Some of the career coaches will be assigned to more than one school. They will help students chart their academic future beyond high school and give them advice about which career path best suits them.

The move is part of a $10 million expansion of a state jobs program called Arkansas Works, which seeks to improve the economy and create jobs through better education and career training. In announcing the initiative, the governor said he hoped that the career coaches would be so successful during their three-year pilot program that it would be expanded to all 75 counties in the state.

The governor noted that guidance counselors have taken on more responsibilities, such as disciplinarian, social worker and advisor on health issues. In some cases, they even act as “mommy and daddy,” he said, so they should welcome the extra help.

The director of the state Department of Career Education said the benefit of having career coaches available in high schools would be that young people could begin planning their futures sooner.

Making decisions about the future can be complex and confusing, and adds a lot of pressure on young people who already have plenty to worry about.

Therefore the sooner they start to think about and plan for life after high school, the better prepared they will be.

If a student’s parents never went to college, it’s more likely he or she will be frustrated by the complexity of the application process and applying for financial aid. Career coaches can help in those areas.

Legislative leaders applauded the administration’s commitment to job training during the current period of economic difficulties.

The Arkansas Works program is also designed to stimulate economic development. The state is trying to recruitcompanies that create well-paid jobs and that are competitive in the global economy. Those companies will locate and expand only in areas that have a well educated workforce.

Other programs in Arkansas Works help people get better jobs and find jobs if they are unemployed. The Web address is www.arworks.arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Works Web page is designed to help individuals plan a realistic career path. Visit a local Workforce Services Center to get log-in information. After logging in, you can learn how to write a resume or a cover letter, assess your skills and find out about job opportunities in your field.

The Arkansas Workforce Services Department keeps labor market information and records of unemployment insurance. For example, the civilian labor force in Arkansas is about 1,366,000 people whose average salary is $697 a week. Our annual per capita income last year was $31,266, which ranked Arkansas 46th in the country.

In terms of how many adults have a college degree, Arkansas ranks 49th. That is a ranking that must improve if we want to improve the economy.

If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, please contact me at HendrenK @ arkleg.state.ar.us or call me at 479-787-6500, extension 30.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 11/18/2009

Print Headline: Capitol Reports Arkansas Works Provides Career Coaches to High Schools

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