As our Virginia community colleges continue to enhance vocational programs designed to help their students prepare for good jobs in the real world, they are also looking beyond the classroom experience to assist these students in navigating their way into the workforce.

That’s a vitally important element in the overall process of guiding students in developing and marketing their newfound skills.

At Virginia Highlands Community College, the assistance extended to students ready to move into the workplace extends means not only counseling to prepare them for job interviews but also helping them look the part when they show up for those interviews and new jobs.

According to a story by Carolyn R. Wilson in last week’s Washington County News, the Abingdon college now has an updated Work Closet that provides students who have limited wardrobes the proper clothing to make their important first impressions.

The Work Closet features new and “gently used” clothing — in current styles — for those students whose home closets are somewhat bare.

As the story notes, the Work Closet at Virginia Highlands is designed to “take the stress off students who may need a no-cost, professional wardrobe in a hurry.”

“When you’re a student with classes or a family at home, you don’t have time to run out to shop for clothing,” said Traci Mitchell, career services specialist at the community college. “If you’re a student, you may not have a lot of money, either. The free service gives students more flexibility.”

When the time comes for job interviews or the start of work, “They can come to Career Services on campus, and we can suit them up with something right here,” Mitchell said. “It helps with their schedules, too. They may get a call from an employer requesting an interview, and that appointment could be as early as tomorrow morning.”

And, as with most programs of this sort, donations of clothes and money to buy clothes are needed and welcomed, the college said.

And no, this isn’t a Goodwill-style drop-off service where people can discard their older, unwanted clothing. The college previously had a clothes closet on campus that unfortunately was stocked with those sorts of giveaways.

But those are not the kind of wardrobe items the college needs or wants now. Many of those items are not suitable for the interview process in today’s competitive job market.

The new Work Closet, the story noted, offers such items as men’s and women’s suits, pants, shirts and shoes, in a variety of sizes from small to plus.

“We ask that donations be recent styles and trends, have no stains or pet hairs and no missing buttons,” Mitchell said.

“Depending on how much we have available in sizes, we may even give students up to three outfits if they get the job,” she said. “This will help out until they get their first paycheck.”

Dressing for success has always been important in the workplace, and it’s especially true for those who are just starting out. Many community college students are working parents with tight budgets that don’t allow much for wardrobe expansion.

This is a program worthy of our support. It not only helps people enter the workforce and begin new careers but also helps showcase the good work our community college is doing in training and preparing new workers.

Not only will that help keep these graduating students in our local area, but it will also show businesses and industries that we can produce a professional workforce to allow them to stay here and expand their operations.

Anyone wanting to donate clothing or money to help the Work Closet effort is asked to contact Mitchell by email at tmitchell@vhcc.edu.

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