KANNAPOLIS - Nestled in the heart of Cannon Village, the R3 Center is a separate entity from its parent, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Keri Allman likes the unique location. Allman serves as director for the community – based career services center, which seeks to refocus, retrain and re-employ students and members of the community alike. The center is entering its eighth year of existence and continues to evolve to meet client needs.
Housed in the former visitor's center in downtown Kannapolis, the facility no longer welcomes tourists, but people who are searching for employment.
An employability lab is set up in the space that housed a former textile museum. The lab is open noon-4 p.m., Monday-Thursday. There, job-seekers can work on their resumes, complete online applications, search for jobs online and more, all with the help of an onsite instructor. Along with Allman and Cindy Martens, administrative assistant, the center employs four career coaches: Kerry Motley, Shameka Smith, Jackie Linker and Becky Hammill.
"We are the non-traditional recruitment source for the college," Allman explains. "It's a critical element of the College's outreach. We want to serve the community at large in addition to our students."
Despite its free-standing location, R3 is still "intimately connected" with the College, Allman says. "We make sure we refer and partner with our on-campus Student Services operation to provide full academic advising, assessment, and support to clients seeking education and retraining options."
However, the population that R3 serves is somewhat different than the College's traditional student population. The R3population tends to be between 35 to 45 years old, evenly split between male and female. Allman notes that during years of plant closures, that population was higher male. The center also serves a steady number of clients over age 50.
"The millennials are the hardest age range to get in here," she adds. "However, the good news is that we're seeing their parents."
Along with the Employability Lab, R3 offers free workshops, classes and resume clinics. Examples of workshops include: Identifying Your Career Options, Interview Techniques, Networking Methods, Looking for Work at 50+, Letter Writing for the Job Seeker, and Online Job Hunting (beginners and advanced).
The goal of R3services is workforce development, to ensure that candidates can perform and are hirable, Allman says.
The center also serves as a liaison for the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC), where the College has a classroom building whose major instructional focus includes biotechnology and nursing. When the NCRC first opened, the center conducted meetings to help local citizens understand the NCRC's focus and mission. The center continues to serve as a referral source for the campus, Allman notes.
When R3 first opened, there had been several years' worth of plant closings and layoffs.
"We didn't have to search for clients," Allman says. "They came to us."
Now, R3 serves as a non-traditional entrance to the College, referring students to classes they need in order to find employment. R3 has established relationships with local businesses and industries to find out what kinds of skills are needed in the current workplace.
Allman has found that by working with local business and industry representatives, college instructors and coaches can create a winning formula to recruit adult students and workers.
"When we opened seven years ago, we thought we'd be working with people who did not have their GED and who were low income," Allman says. "That is just not the reality. We saw people without a GED, but we've also had people with Ph.D.'s come in - people who are in transition in their jobs. We do not provide job placement here, but we help you identify what you what you need to do to get hired. Through that process, people can position themselves better for success."
In 2013, the center sponsored a handful of Employer Spotlight events, in which local businesses presented programs about their companies. These events provided a great opportunity for job seekers to network and learn more about the local business environment, and in turn allowed local employers to get to know them.
"Our businesses know that people who come in our doors are good people," Allman says. "They're here of their own freewill. We don't currently post job postings, but that may change in the future."
R3's hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information, call 704-216-7201 or visit www.rccc.edu/r3.