West Hills College Lemoore WIN Center Helps Students, Employers Connect

Monica Vargas wants to help the residents of Kings County.

In her position as a Program Specialist for Kings United Way, she does exactly that. She helps connect anyone who calls for help with resources ranging from food to help paying the utility bill.

For Monica, the urge to help comes naturally. After all, she’s in the position she’s in now through a combination of hard work and a little help from West Hills College Lemoore and the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.

“When I was a student at West Hills College Lemoore, I confided in the staff at the WIN Center a lot about my life situation,” said Vargas. “It was through those conversations that I was connected with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.”
Vargas, an Administration of Justice and Liberal Studies major at West Hills College Lemoore at the time, was encouraged to apply for an internship at the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.
Amy Ward, the Chamber of Commerce CEO, was looking for an intern and turned to the WHCL WIN Center, a campus resource for students that strives to connect industry and students through workshops, internships, and more all while teaching students how to be successful in the workforce.

“My interest in partnering with West Hills began when I started meeting regularly with people from the college and hearing a lot about everything they were doing,” said Ward. “I realized that West Hills is really digging deep to meet the needs of all ages of people in the community, not just those straight out of high school or people who decided not to go to a four-year. They’re working to help everyone.”

Ward was also impressed by how West Hills worked directly with her to find an intern who was right for her, matching the skill sets she needed with a student who had them.

Vargas started at the chamber in July of 2018. Initially, she assumed she would be handling “typical” intern responsibilities, like filing and answering phones. While Vargas did file and answer phones, she primarily spent her time attending events with Ward, networking and getting to know the community.

During her time as an intern, Vargas sat in on interview committees, helped organize events, networked and saw a change in her perspective when it came to careers.
For Vargas, the internship was a learning opportunity and a chance to find her life path. Vargas had been a teen mother, welcoming her son into the world at age 16. For her, the internship helped her to find her footing.

“I remember when I first got to the chamber, Amy took me on a walk around downtown and she asked what I wanted to get from my internship,” Vargas said. “I wanted to find my voice. I didn’t want to be embarrassed or shy.”

The Lemoore Chamber of Commerce is now looking to place two more interns and Vargas is hoping to leverage her time with her current employer, Kings United Way, into a career as a Parole Officer.

Another student who benefited from the WIN Center’s connection to industry was Janet Rodriguez. The WIN Center puts on an annual event called Entrée to Employment. The event connects students with employers over dinner and gives both an opportunity to network.

Rodriguez, then a Business Administration student, attended the event in December 2018. There, she met representatives from various companies and was able
to network. 
“I learned about a company and liked what I heard,” she said. “Then, a few months later, there was a job opportunity in Human Resources with the same employer. I mentioned during the interview that I had met the Human Resources Manager and I interviewed well so I got the job.”

Rodriguez said that she felt the opportunity to meet a representative from the company made the interview process go smoother and may have helped her chances.
She also attributed her interview skills to the WIN Center.

“I would just like to encourage students to check out the WIN Center because not a lot of students are aware of the many resources they offer,” she said.
Rodriguez is now a Human Resources Specialist.

For both students, the WIN Center made a difference.
Kris Costa, Dean of Career and Technical Education at WHCL, oversees the WIN Center. For her, the WIN Center is all about making connections, between employers, students and the college.

“If we can’t provide our employers with what they need in the workforce, then why do we exist?” she said. “We have a population that wants to work and has the skill sets to be successful so we need to help make the connection between student and employer.”

The WIN Center accomplishes this by offering many different activities that work hard to get employers on campus and students talking to them. The center offers workshops, special events like Entrée to Employment, and even informal pizza parties featuring employers discussing what they are looking for in employees.

The WIN Center is located in Room 275 and offers many different services, including interview help, resume help and many events where students can connect with local employers and learn more about different career fields.