Durham community committed to their students’ success

Durham Technical Community College’s Liz Blankenship (left) helping Holton Center student Kaleb Lunsford (right) practice his 30-second elevator pitch for potential employers. Staff photo by Thaddeus Burglund)

For career and technical education students at the Holton Center, like senior Kaleb Shaw Lunsford, graduating is just one step along the path to a rewarding career – and they don’t have to travel it alone.

Made in Durham, in partnering with the community, has made it their mission to ensure all Durham’s youth will get a post-secondary education and begin a career by the age of 25. That’s why they’ve partnered with Durham Technical Community College’s workforce development program to give the students at the Holton Center a head start with their “How to Get a Job” series.

Holton Center student Kaleb Lunsford (18) completing his dual-enrollment application for Durham Technical Community College in order to make it easier to begin classes their after graduation. (Staff photo by Thaddeus Burglund)

“I am here because it can help me get a job or internship easier. … I want to do something hands on – I like hands on,” said Lunsford about the two-part series.

Lunsford, who plans to graduate in January, looks forward to attending Durham Tech to pursue an education in engineering or automotive technology.

Liz Blankenship, who has worked in the workforce development team at Durham Tech for five years, is helping students like Lunsford reach their goals by teaching the class. It focuses on developing important interviewing skills, resumes and also has them dual-enrolled in the class at Durham Tech to make that next step even easier. This all allows students to learn the skills and tools they need to get a job, something most people have to learn on their own.

Made in Durham’s employer engagement associate, Jacob Dolan, is responsible for the partnership with Durham Tech, and said he understands the importance of these classes in the success of Durham’s youth.

“Youth workforce is way down,” he said.

According to Made in Durham, roughly 40 percent of Durham’s young people may not be on track to complete high school, achieve a post-secondary credential of some kind or gain employment by the time they are 25. This is why they help provide classes like the one being offered to students at the Holton Center, which are made possible by local partnerships and a Duke Energy grant. By partnering with local businesses, non-profits and the city of Durham, Made in Durham gives students a leg-up in the competitive job search by connecting them with potential employers and ways to continue their education.

The Holton Center’s career development coordinator, Heather Covington, said she also understands the importance of the “How to Get a Job” series, and is happy to have her students come out of class to attend. Covington, who is in charge of the career and technical education students at the Holton Center, said she wants her students to be prepared once they graduate and is happy to see that the Durham community has come together to support their youth.

“The big impact for the students is seeing that people in the community are interested in investing in them,” she said. “They can be supported.”

Made in Durham’s Jacob Dolan (left) helping Kaleb Lunsford (right) register on the College Foundation of North Carolina’s website in order to access resume tools, and apply for scholarships and post-secondary education. (Staff photo by Thaddeus Burglund)

According to Covington, who has been in her role at the Holton Center for three years, 100 percent of her career and technical education students seek employment, with about half pursuing a post-secondary education. Her goal is to have her students employed before they graduate or right after.

The second part of the “How to Get a Job” series takes place at the Holton Center on Thursday, April 6. According to Dolan, there will be three more opportunities coming up this spring. Additionally, anyone can enroll in Durham Tech’s workforce development programs, which are offered in multiple locations in Durham and Orange counties, with fees being waived for the unemployed, underemployed, or people with earned federal income tax credit.