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STAR leader brings wealth of experience in workforce development

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Markisha Butler’s experience in workforce development stretches back to a work study job in college.

She worked in the career services office, helping fellow students write résumés and prepare for job interviews.

“If I didn’t have that experience of working with them myself, I wouldn’t have been prepared for the different career paths that I’ve been on,” Butler recalled.

She’s carried a passion for helping others achieve their career goals forward into more than 17 years in the field of workforce development. And in her new role as the executive director of the STAR Foundation, Butler is able to marry her passions for service and workforce development.

Butler began leading the STAR Foundation in September. The nonprofit works to educate adults in the community from low-income areas and teach foundational skills needed to thrive in personal and professional ways.

“I wasn’t new to STAR,” Butler said. “I actually volunteered in the past and helped with mock interviews. It’s a good way to merge purpose and passion.”

Butler has previously worked in higher education, for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, WorkSource Coastal and Jobs Corps, as well as others.

Her early experience at the career services office, helping college students, set the tone for much of the work to come.

“Sometimes I’ve seen where people don’t necessarily know how to transfer their skills, but when talking with them they realize that they do have certain skill sets,” she said. “It’s just being able to articulate them to fit the job that they’re interested in and applying for.”

STAR Foundation takes a holistic approach to help each individual who walks through the door. Everyone faces different barriers, Butler said, and STAR can bring the resources forward to address them one by one with the support of its partners.

“We have the resources to help them overcome those barriers,” Butler said.

Strong community partnerships among those focused on workforce development also play an important role in employee retention, Butler said, which many employers have struggled with in recent years.

“I also think if we afford them opportunities like internship/externship opportunities, that can give them hands-on experience,” she said. “It’s kind of like building your own. We’re growing our own talent pipeline, so to speak.”

The nonprofit’s latest new initiative is an introduction to computer workshop for people ages 55 and older that aims to tackle the digital divide and help older individuals learn technology skills and practices for navigating today’s digital-first climate.

The workshop is a two-day event, two hours each day. Its purpose is to introduce and familiarize individuals with the basic skills needed to use computers and technology effectively.

“We received a grant from Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation to launch a seniors workshop for individuals 55 and older,” Butler said. “At the time of completion, they’ll get a Chromebook.”

The program meets a widespread need in this area, she said.

“I felt like it was a need because you have more grandparents who are taking care of kids,” she said. “Parents are working, and with the homeschooling grandparents had to jump in and assist with the virtual learning. We just felt like to help that population overcome the digital divide it would be great to launch.”

The new program also showed the broad reach STAR Foundation has, with its focus both on those entering the workforce for the first time or returning to it, as well as older adults in need of a skills refresh or new workforce training opportunities.

“It’s just reaching out to another population while also meeting the community’s needs,” Butler said.

STAR also offers an employment readiness program and workshops focused on financial management, technology, leadership development and soft skills.

The nonprofit collaborates with many organizations in the area.

Butler has more plans for STAR, including new summer programs for young people seeking workforce development opportunities.

“I think the community’s going to be very impressed at the different changes they’re going to see,” Butler said. “We’re going to meet the challenging needs of the community as it relates to workforce with creative and innovative programming.”



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