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Work-Based Learning Opportunities empower long-term career successes 

July 4, 2024
Work Matters Column by Justin Sturgeon 
Work Matters Column by Justin Sturgeon 

For many young people, embarking on a career journey and choosing the right path for long-term success can be daunting. Obstacles such as limited access to career training can make the prospect of finding a fulfilling career feel out of reach for some. Additionally, in a time where median expenses exceed median income by over $2,500 in Hardin County, as highlighted by recent data provided through the Kentucky Department for Economic Development, “analysis paralysis” is a reality for many.

In my role as a Career Advisor with Career TEAM, I work in lockstep with the Kentucky Career Center - Lincoln Trail (KCC-LT) to help guide job seekers in our region toward steady and rewarding employment. Specifically, I serve as a youth career advisor, working closely with businesses and community advocates to procure job placements and training opportunities for our Youth VIPs - enrolled clients aged 16 to 24 who are encountering obstacles to employment and are not enrolled in formal education. 

Central to my work is connecting VIPs with a variety of Work-Based Learning Opportunities (WBLOs). These opportunities, including mentoring, internships and pre-apprenticeships, are made possible through funding from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). While industry and worksite parameters vary, all WBLO sites are united in their commitment to providing opportunities for VIPs to acquire and enhance skills while making meaningful contributions to operations.

When VIPs enroll in our program, they engage with comprehensive assessments and utilize resources available on Career EDGE, our one-stop platform designed to support career development, which is available at no cost to any resident of the region. 

Beyond simply matching VIPs with employers, our approach involves extensive community engagement to identify additional resources that support VIPs in achieving long-term self-sufficiency. In doing this, we think not just outside the box but around, beneath and behind it. 

A core message we impart to VIPs is that career success is rarely a linear journey. We encourage them to explore WBLO opportunities that align with their interests and goals, providing them with the chance to acquire new skills. Though VIPs are expected to engage in an interview process with their chosen employer and adhere to the employer’s rules and standards, we provide them with ongoing support and coaching to navigate challenges and ensure they meet workplace expectations.

Once our VIPs move past the initial placement phase, we monitor their progress throughout and after their WBLO experience, supporting their continued development and adjustment to the workforce. This approach ensures that VIPs not only secure employment but also build the necessary skills to thrive in their careers.

Happy businesswoman handshaking with client closing deal in an office interior with a window in the background

WBLOs not only enhance technical skills but also instill crucial job-related competencies such as effective communication, conflict resolution and time management. For many VIPs, WBLOs serve as a gateway to explore industries they may not have previously considered, leading some to pursue further education or seek industry certifications. Others discover new career paths that better align with their interests and strengths.

Collaboration with local employers is critical to the success of our program. By demonstrating the value of investing in youth through these opportunities, we foster partnerships that benefit both employers and the broader regional workforce. These partnerships contribute to workforce retention and economic development by retaining local talent and fostering a sense of community resilience and pride. Though these opportunities are made possible through federal funding, they deliver community-oriented results. 

As we continue to strengthen partnerships and create opportunities through this program, our ultimate goal is to empower VIPs with the confidence and skills needed to pursue diverse careers and navigate their professional journeys successfully. Whether VIPs are overcoming setbacks or are uncertain about their next steps, WBLOs and career services at KCC-LT are designed to provide them with stability, purpose and the tools for lifelong career success.

To learn more about Work-Based Learning Opportunities available through KCC-LT, visit ltcareercenter.org/work-based-learning-opportunities. Employers interested in sharing WBLO opportunities are also encouraged to visit the website. 

Justin Sturgeon serves as a Career Advisor with Career TEAM. He can be reached at justinsturgeon@careerteam.com. Career TEAM is the Direct Services Provider at Kentucky Career Center - Lincoln Trail.

The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail helps match job seekers with local employment and training opportunities. Our business solutions team offers employers of all sizes and industries personalized support to build a competitive workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer.

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Program is funded with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funds through the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. The Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board assures compliance with the Education and Labor Cabinet’s Methods of Administration, as amended, Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Assurance and all other Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity requirements of WIOA.