Student Spotlight: Kelsey Myers


What is your occupation? What are some of your responsibilities?
I am an Adult Education Instructor at Lord Fairfax Community College. I teach an ESL class
offered through Lord Fairfax’s the Adult Education Program. I plan lessons, report attendance,
and conduct pre- and post-testing for assessment. I am also helping to design a curriculum for
ESL classes we’re able to offer now through a grant the program received, the Integrated English
Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) grant.

What inspired you to choose this field?
I love languages and have always wanted to be a teacher. I started volunteering teaching ESL
through a local literacy organization, and I found my students to be the most motivated and
earnest learners. I wanted to help equip them with the language tools they need to succeed in

How has/have your credential(s) helped you in your career?
The TESOL Certificate program taught me how to teach in a way that is student-centered and
most beneficial for the student. It gave me experience leading a class, lesson planning, and
setting objectives.

Please describe the academic pathway you took to get to your current position.
I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English at Lynchburg College, then later
started the TESOL Certificate program at NOVA. I observed ESL classes that Lord Fairfax
offered as part of the Certificate requirements, so when I completed my certificate I contacted
the Lord Fairfax contact I went through to set up observation hours to see if they were hiring. A
few months later, Lord Fairfax notified me that they were hiring. I applied and got the job!

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years? Ten?
I’d like to have a Master’s degree in TESOL, and be teaching full-time to ESL students taking
credit classes at a university.




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Checking the Facts: The LinkedIn Workforce Report

At NOVA, we frequently hear from educators, businesses, students, and parents about the challenges of providing career advice. The volume of information available about where the jobs are, the skills and education needed, and how to get there is simply overwhelming. So when big name entities release reports about workforce trends, people pay attention. Unfortunately, if the information provided to the public is inaccurate or incomplete, there could be a very serious, unintended consequence: students and job seekers are advised to stay away from occupations and skills that are in high demand.

Most recently, LinkedIn has started releasing a Workforce Report, reporting on employment trends for the U.S. workforce, as well as 20 of the largest metro areas in the United States. After examining the most recent February 2018 report for the Washington, D.C. metro, we have found several inconsistencies between the LinkedIn report and data provided through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Burning Glass, and leading economists in the greater D.C. region.

LinkedIn highlights 10 skills that are in “abundance” for the Washington, D.C. region, which the company defines as a skill where the worker supply exceeds employer demand. Many skills on this list are in high-demand from D.C. employers according to online job posting data from Burning Glass. In particular, we are concerned that three of the skills highlighted in the report: PR and Communications, Software Engineering Management, and IT Infrastructure and Systems Management. These three skills are misrepresented as having an abundance in supply when employers are actually having a difficult time recruiting talent with these skills.

It is important to note that the LinkedIn data comes entirely from the company’s social media platform, which relies on data inputted by each user with a LinkedIn account. A few areas for concern when using LinkedIn data to draw broad conclusions on the workforce are:

  1. LinkedIn profiles do not represent the workforce in its entirety. There is inherent sampling bias in the LinkedIn data, as certain professionals are more likely than others to have an active LinkedIn profile.
  2. LinkedIn data used in the Workforce Report assumes that all data on user profiles is accurate and up to date. Any user can create or update their profile with false or inaccurate information about skills or education they’ve received, or forget to update their LinkedIn account to reflect changes in skills, education, or employment.
  3. Skills listed on an individual’s profile may not reflect their current employment profile. Skills represent an individual’s self-reported skill achievements over the course of their entire career, not just the skill requirements of their current position.

Below is a closer examination of the job market data for PR and Communications, Software Engineering Management, and IT Infrastructure and Systems Management from the “gold standard” source – the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most recent data available is from Quarter 1 2017, with estimates provided through Quarter 3 2017. Data on job postings is provided by Chmura Economics, an industry leader in providing real time labor market information services.

  1. PR and Communications – There are approximately 21,081 public relations specialists in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.2% and there are 1,794 active job postings for this occupation. 5,116 professionals are employed as public relations and fundraising managers, and this occupation has an unemployment rate of 1.1% with 575 active job postings.
  2. Software Engineering Management – There are 77,304 software developers and programmers in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.5% and there are 9,615 active job postings.
  3. IT Infrastructure and Systems Management – There are 35,382 Computer and Information Analysts in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.7% and there are 7,760 active job postings. There are 32,464 Database and Systems Administrators in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 1.8% and there are 8,757 active job postings.

Given all of the data presented above, it appears that employers are in fact having a difficult time hiring for these three skills, with the job posting demand for these occupations greatly exceeding talent supply. LinkedIn has a wide reaching audience, with over 150 million profiles in the United States alone. If LinkedIn’s reporting continues to provide inaccurate or misrepresented data on the workforce as factual, it could cause unintended negative consequences to career advising and harm workforce development efforts to build our technology talent supply for the region.

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The Latest in Workforce Student Success

Early in February, approximately 190 students and instructors from NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute (ACLI) gathered for their Welcome Potluck Luncheon and Academic Award Ceremony.

Students shared and enjoyed food representing a variety of cultures.

One student later wrote, “I was very excited from the first day that I knew there was a party called a Pot Luck. We would share foods from different countries. On that day, I tried almost every dish. They were all perfect.” 

Afterwards, Ms. Darlene Branges, an ACLI Coordinator, awarded Ms. Nueraila Abulizi with the ACLI Academic Award of Excellence. Each semester this award is given to a student who exhibits academic success, a strong work ethic, and leadership qualities within the classroom.

She was nominated by her instructor, Ms. Dianne Prosack, who wrote:

“Not only is she studying English full-time, she volunteers in a dental clinic.  Besides being a very dedicated hardworking student, she also is one of the kindest, most generous people I have had the pleasure of meeting.  She was friendly toward all of her classmates, assisted them when she could, and even listened to their problems. I don’t think there is a more deserving student.” 

The luncheon concluded with a competitive Valentine’s themed game of Kahoot.

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Career Services Classroom Engagement

Erika Coddington, Student Engagement Coordinator at NOVA Workforce, presented to 73 students in Dean Kathleen Cogdill’s Business classes. Erika showed students the features and benefits of the college’s career services database, the College Central Network. The features include podcasts on career development topics (such as resume and interview tips), as well as tools to improve personal branding.

Each semester, Dean Cogdill requires her students to submit their resumes through the College Central Network (CCN) resume portal for feedback and approval as a 100-point assignment for her class.

The students asked about what types of questions to expect in interviews. For example, one question might be: “Describe your experience in working with a difficult customer.” Students also asked about how to dress for success, what color business suits are most professional, and about the appropriate timing for salary negotiations.

The students asked questions about career advancement, which demonstrates the eagerness of NOVA students to learn more about how to be successful and increase their marketability for employment.

Students also expressed curiosity and interest in the job and internship opportunities in NOVA’s career services database.

We received the following feedback from Professor Cogdill regarding the presentation and incorporation of College Central Network (CCN) into her class curriculum:

“Our partnership of my classes with CCN has been terrific and six students last semester got jobs with the resumes you worked on with my students.”

We love supporting the career success of NOVA students! For more information about NOVA Workforce Career Services, email:

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Training Immigrants in the Culture and Language of the Workplace – Part 3: Overcoming Challenges to Build Strategies for Success

This blog post was originally published here. 

In this final installment of our three-part blog series on the American Culture and Language Institute’s Part-Time ESL Career Readiness program, we focus on some of the challenges faced by international and immigrant students and how ACLI’s staff helps them overcome barriers and navigate a clear path to employment.

 Challenges Faced

The largest challenge facing international and immigrant students is the fact that ACLI is a self-funded program, funded through student tuition. These students cannot use Pell Grants or other financial aid to pay for ACLI ESL classes. In an effort to remain affordable, ACLI has kept tuition increases to a minimum and remains competitive with other community college-based ESL programs. However, if NOVA could secure grant funding for ESL students—which it seeks occasionally—it would improve student outcomes by allowing the continuation of their studies.

A secondary challenge facing international and resident students at NOVA is the perceived duplication of ESL programs at the college. While ACLI acts as a feeder program into College ESL, a lack of sequential-level identification across both programs often confuses prospective students. NOVA has expedited the transition between the two programs through the use of a Bridge Writing Exam. ACLI also implemented a college-wide placement test of writing, speaking, and listening, and college-wide objective statements for each ACLI level.

Strategies for Success: Why It Works

Staffing: NOVA has created a new centralized staff position—ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer Cynthia Hatch—to evaluate and lead the Career Readiness redesign of ACLI ESL programs across five campuses. Hatch is also responsible for leading a college-wide curriculum review team.

Assessment: ACLI staff conducts thorough needs assessments via pre- and post-tests. They conduct a post-program assessment involving all stakeholders, such as students, instructors, and contract employers.

Professional Development: NOVA provides its ACLI instructors with ongoing professional development via annual Teacher Appreciation Days—mini-conferences with teacher trainers from NOVA Workforce’s TESOL Certificate Program, instructors, and guest speakers.

Partnerships: Internal partnerships across NOVA’s campuses are critical to ACLI’s success, and there are several efforts to improve the transition of ACLI students into college-level programs. Staff in the for-credit College ESL program help ACLI students advance by evaluating exit-level Intensive English Program students’ readiness to enter the College ESL program, via the Accuplacer Exam and a Bridge Writing Exam. NOVA Workforce’s Student Success Advisors provide career and college advising for ACLI students interested in pursuing credit or noncredit workforce credential programs.

Finally, also critical to ACLI’s success is the number of external partners—such as local literacy councils, public schools, and nonprofit organizations—that regularly refer ESL students to ACLI to continue to study English or enter College ESL. International entities such as the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and universities in Turkey and Brazil have provided funding for student scholarships and faculty professional development.

Steven B. Partridge, NOVA Workforce vice president, noted, The life cycle of educational programs is getting shorter; therefore educational institutions must constantly redesign our offerings to meet the needs of today’s diverse workforce. To ensure we develop the skills demanded by employers, we must be intentional in creating meaningful training for students and employers, while also ensuring any training we offer is both stackable and has a clear path to real-world employment opportunities. With NOVA Workforce’s Career Readiness program, for the first time, English-language learners can transition from contextualized ESL instruction to Workforce Credentials programs, thereby providing students with a pathway to earn credentials in Northern Virginia’s high-demand sectors.”

This is the final installment of a three-part series on training immigrants in the culture and language of the workplace. The full case study on how Northern Virginia Community College supports immigrant and international students through its American Culture and Language Institute can be found here.

Please share your comments @CCCIE or success stories in a short paragraph description on Facebook. Let us know why it was a success. Does your college have successful business models to build career pathways for immigrant students to transition them from ESL to the workplace? What is the role of employer partnerships to make this transition a success? We’d like to hear from you!

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Student Spotlight: Olympew Jordan

Click on the image to enlarge:

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Education and Career Support at Cornerstones

NOVA workforce career counselor, Jennifer Merrill, is leading an information session at Cornerstones to provide customized career insight and support.

Cornerstones is a nonprofit organization that assists clients in gaining self-sufficiency. Cornerstones provides resources including food, shelter, housing, childcare, and other services.

Various clients of the Cornerstones programs will take part in the career session, as an initial step in going to school for a certification or Associate degree at NOVA. Jennifer will help each client understand how to enroll in classes at NOVA, how to apply for financial aid, and receive any other support the clients may need.

The clients will have the opportunity to develop their future career paths and educational goals at the session. Jennifer will offer insight on credit courses, noncredit courses, and the variety of opportunities available at NOVA.

NOVA Workforce is continually looking for ways to support the community through events like this information session at Cornerstones. Career counselors are available for customized support and guidance. For more information, please contact

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Training Immigrants in the Culture and Language of the Workplace – Part 2: Using Data to Design Programs for Immigrant Student Achievement

The blog post was originally published here. 


The staff at NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute accelerated the use of data in the redesign of its Part-Time ESL Career Readiness program, which offers workforce-contextualized English classes for students at high-beginning through intermediate ESL levels and helps them successfully transition to further college and careers.

ACLI staff and administrators use the results of regularly administered student surveys to evaluate program outcomes and guide any program changes. This included the evaluation and redesign of the Career Readiness Program in 2017, which now includes pathways between part-time ESL and workforce credential programs.

A key data point that influenced the redesign came from survey questions asking students about their current employment and their desired future employment. Survey results in both fall 2016 and spring 2017 showed a distinct trend for students currently employed in low-paying jobs (e.g., childcare, food service) wanting to move into high-paying, high-demand jobs (e.g., IT, healthcare, business).

Cynthia Hatch, the ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer for ACLI, said that, after reviewing the survey data and in response to employer needs, it was clear “there was a definite pathway from our ESL programs into our workforce programs. It’s incumbent upon us to capitalize on that interest and help students get where they want to go.”

Figure 1 above illustrates the multiple entry and exit points for ACLI students in the redesigned Part-Time Program. Each of the five levels takes approximately 100 hours to complete during an academic year. Students may take Part-Time ESL classes at any of five different skill levels (low-beginning to intermediate) and either continue to College ESL or shift into Career Readiness classes (starting at the high-beginning level, i.e., level 3), which lead to Workforce Credentials courses in education, IT, healthcare, and business/management.

Subject matter experts from NOVA’s Workforce Credentials program–-a state grant program for Virginia residents in industry-specific certification courses–-will interact with ESL students through guest lectures, interviews, and noncredit Workforce Credentials classes. Career Readiness classes provide a “reality check” so that students can be confident about their eventual Workforce Credentials choices.

Optional Support ESL classes such as grammar, pronunciation, and a learning lab provide supplementary “soft skill” instruction to promote students’ persistence and prepare them for the workforce. These support ESL classes for ACLI students usually begin two weeks after the Part-Time ESL and Career Readiness classes, and last for eight weeks. Support ESL classes take 20 hours to complete.


Next in this blog series: Overcoming Challenges to Build Strategies for Success


Please share your comments @CCCIE or success stories in a short paragraph description on Facebook. Let us know why it was a success. How does your college use data to drive immigrant student achievement? How does the data inform your college about the needs of immigrant students in their transition from ESL to the workplace? We’d like to hear from you! 


For more information, contact:

Keila Louzada, ESL Program Coordinator, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Cynthia Hatch, ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer, NOVA Workforce, Northern Virginia Community College,

Jill Casner-Lotto, Director, Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education,

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NOVA Workforce Partners with Fairfax County Schools to Provide Career Awareness Resources for Teachers

Choosing a career path at any age is a difficult task. But selecting a career path as a high school student—without a full understanding of the career pathways available—can be an even more daunting task.

Fairfax County high schools are implementing training to provide teachers with resources to help students make more informed career decisions. By developing a greater awareness of potential career paths, students have the opportunity to pursue an educational and career pathway that will aid their success.

With the support of the Bank of America Foundation, NOVA Workforce recently participated in career awareness training at Mount Vernon High School. The primary goal of the training was to provide educators with resources to help students expand their awareness of potential careers by connecting class curriculum with the world of work. Students benefit from a broader awareness of potential career paths, beyond the well-known careers (e.g. lawyer, doctor, teacher) to more specific career pathways that are not as well-known (e.g. marketing, data analytics, social media management, etc.).

Alex Cooley, Labor Market Analyst for NOVA Workforce, led a portion of the training. He met with teachers and staff at Mount Vernon High School to provide data-driven resources for career awareness. Alex shared information about labor market data that can assist students in making informed career decisions. The training also included information on the importance of career awareness, work-based learning opportunities for high school students in Fairfax County, and a group discussion on innovative ways teachers can engage students in exploring career interests.

In an effort to promote career readiness and awareness for students, Mount Vernon High School will also be opening a new career center in 2018. The new career center was made possible by a generous contribution from the Bank of America Foundation.

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NVTC Titans Event: Deep Learning

Members of the NOVA Workforce team attended an event on deep learning hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) on January 31.
The event, titled “Deep Learning: Promise and Pitfalls,” was part of NVTC’s Titans event series. The event consisted of two panelists, Melvin Greer, Chief Data Scientist at Intel, and Dr. John Kaufhold, Managing Partner and Data Scientist at Deep Learning Analytics, sharing their insight on the topic of deep learning. The panel was moderated by Dr. Ravi Pappu, Chief Architect at In-Q-Tel.
Deep learning is defined as “an artificial intelligence function that imitates the workings of the human brain in processing data and creating patterns for decision making.” As businesses continue to adopt deep learning practices, the panel recommended that organizations begin by identifying a business problem. Then, address that problem with talent, data, frameworks, and hardware.
Organizations face a significant challenge, however, because talent and data are gatekeepers—and qualified, trained talent is lacking. As a result, job candidates with information technology skills are in high demand.
Since the demand for IT talent is so high, there are significant opportunities to develop a successful career in this field. NOVA Workforce offers high-quality training and certificates to equip you with the skills for which employers are searching.
Learn more about NOVA Workforce’s IT training opportunities here.
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