The Governor’s Coaching Corps is Helping Rhode Island Career Coaches Build a Stronger Community

In partnership with the Rhode Island Governor's Workforce Board, Skillful introduced the Governor’s Coaching Corps (GCC) program to career coaches in the state in November 2020. At a time when in-person interactions were greatly reduced because of restrictions put in place due to COVID-19, the GCC has been a valuable resource to Rhode Island career coaches, helping them build strong relationships that will allow them to better serve job seekers in local communities and navigate these difficult times.

Through the GCC, Nick Coutis, a certified peer recovery specialist with OpenDoors Rhode Island, an organization that serves formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, has met other coaches who have helped him access a broader network of prospective employers. For Nick, the networking aspect of the program has been the most valuable.

“My clients are not at home living off savings from one job to another, my clients are trying to get their lives back together. For my clients the stakes are higher; so that means that when I meet someone that knows of a new opportunity and that can help one or two people that makes a huge difference,” Nick says.

A talented worker with an incredible resume couldn’t get into any jobs that he might be qualified for because he has a felony conviction, so Nick reached out to Duncan Ermer, a senior manager of workforce development at Skills for Rhode Island's Future and GCC participant who Nick met at one of the GCC retreats. Duncan’s organization typically has hundreds of job openings from a variety of companies, and he was able to organize an interview for Nick’s client.

The support between these two coaches is mutual. Duncan referred a previously incarcerated job seeker to Nick because he felt they would be better served with support from Open Doors Rhode Island.  Duncan explained, “When a candidate comes through and they’ve been recently released from prison, or they have a criminal background, it can be difficult for them to find a job. I know that Nick’s organization specializes, not only in which employers are going to be more forgiving, but also specialize in dealing with the frustration and disappointment.”

Even career coaches with already extensive networks are meeting new peers and making lasting connections. For example, Audra Lavoie, Alumni Career Advisor at the University of Rhode Island Foundation and Alumni Engagement (URIFAE) has years of experience in the career development field and is involved with professional development groups; she is also the President of Rhode Island Career Development Association (RICDA), a state chapter for The National Career Development Association. “Rhode Island is super tiny; I can go anywhere within an hour. In Rhode Island I expect to know a lot of people, because I’ve had so much time in career development and with these professional groups, but when we started the Skillful Governor’s Coaching Corps suddenly, I noticed that I only knew five or six of the 35 members,” Audra said.

As the only person in a full-time career coaching role within URIFAE, Audra often operates in isolation, so she finds having comradery with a group of peers to be a big benefit of the program. “For me, the building of community is so important. You can learn from everybody in the group.

Audra has also enjoyed the personal development around coaching and mindset that the program offers. Going forward she plans to take her learnings from the GCC and find a way to scale and model them and incorporate them into the RICDA.

Although the Rhode Island Governor’s Coaching Corps cohort has been the first to go through the program remotely, they won’t be the last to reap the benefits of virtual career coaching. Skillful’s work on the GCC and its tools and resources are being embedded into a coalition called the Rework America Alliance that is empowering partners to carry out similar work in a growing set of communities and regions. 

The Rework America Alliance is a unique partnership of civil rights organizations, nonprofits, private sector employers, labor unions, educators, and others, working to help millions of unemployed workers from low-wage roles move into better jobs. It was formed by the Markle Foundation to respond to the employment crisis created by the pandemic that brought into stark relief the inequities in the labor market. The Alliance is focused on opening opportunities for workers who have built capabilities through experience but do not have a bachelor’s degree - particularly for people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the current economic crisis.

Working with regional partners, the Alliance will develop and disseminate virtual career coach trainings nationally, providing coaches with a series of modules to identify non-traditional career pathways, post-secondary training options, and career exploration data sources. While also teaching them how to analyze the local, regional, and state-level economic data; and how to prepare themselves and their clients with basic digital skills.

Learn more about the Rework America Alliance at and virtual career coaching at