Pathway navigators connect students to new opportunities
It’s the first week of Melissa Albrant’s new job as a child support recovery supervisor. Her schedule is hectic, filled with learning new things and adjusting to a different environment and pace. But she is upbeat, excited and most important, grateful for this new career path that she found through her experience at Iowa Lakes Community College.
Albrant, who lives in Emmetsburg in north central Iowa, worked at a nursing home for 19 years prior to her new job. Despite her years of experience and having a college degree, she was barely making ends meet, even when she worked overtime. And as a single mother of two girls, 10 and 14, Albrant wanted things to change.
She approached Iowa Lakes with the idea that she wanted to upskill and learn something new. With the assistance and career coaching process at Iowa Lakes, Albrant found phlebotomy was a good class to pursue since the nursing home often needed more people to help.
“I love learning new things,” Albrant said. “There were only a few people at the nursing home who could draw blood, so I took the course to help out.”
At Iowa Lakes, students are assigned to pathway navigators who provide guidance and support throughout the college experience. Pathway navigators can help a student identify potential career possibilities based upon the student’s interests, ideals and opportunities for success.
“Much of our time is spent helping our students understand what is important to them and how their values, personality, motivated skill sets and basic needs drive their successes,” said Melissa Lutat, pathway navigator at Iowa Lakes Community College. “In turn, they understand how they can apply these important characteristics to a high demand job field. They can see themselves being successful.”
As Albrant’s pathway navigator, Lutat also helped provide tuition assistance for the $1,000 course through Gap Tuition Assistance funding. Students who show financial need for tuition, training costs, books and equipment or other fees are screened for eligibility, and people who are between 150-250 percent of the federal poverty level receive first priority for Gap Tuition Assistance.
“I wouldn’t have been able to take the class without it,” Albrant said. “The tuition assistance covered fees for the class and text book, and I also received a free scrub set for clinicals.”
The tuition assistance provided Albrant the opportunity to focus and excel not only in the eight-week phlebotomy course but also in her personal confidence and leadership abilities.
“It was clear she was ready to grow,” Lutat said. “Through the process, Melissa recruited others and referred them to the college to grow with us, too. She assisted in building their confidence and holding them accountable to the process.”
Through her meetings with Albrant, Lutat learned more about the abilities and leadership skills of the hard-working student, and when she heard of a job opening, which eventually became Albrant’s new job, Lutat quickly shared it with her. The two worked together to build Albrant’s resume and cover letter and practice interviewing techniques – to much success.
“She nailed the interview and now has a job nearly doubling her pay,” Lutat said. “We are so proud of her.”
Pathway navigators provide much support for students at Iowa’s 15 community colleges, even for those like Albrant whose career pathway wasn’t always linear. A good pathway navigator helps a student find their way by identifying career goals, finding applicable courses, applying financial assistance and offering support. These services can ultimately help a student find success and change their life.
Since Albrant’s time at Iowa Lakes, she has been moving forward and staying busy. Starting a new career path doesn’t allow her a lot of time to look back.
“I’m learning new things all this week,” she said. “My brain is turning to mush, but I love it.”