‘We have a responsibility to empower our community’: Terika Hughes on Career Academy


“I did not have a cookie-cutter approach to earning my degrees. A lot of life happened between when I started college and eight years later when I went back to finish.”

When you have worked in higher education for over fifteen years, like Terika Hughes, you hear about harsh realities from students regularly. She knows firsthand how life’s unrelenting nature can dramatically impact academic and career trajectories. 

As Director of Career Training at Southwest, Terika uses her experience as a starting point to relate to students who may feel alone in their battles. Her role in Southwest’s Career training program is a lifeline to many.

“I’ve been working in higher education a while, and I know that I have a gift of being able to talk and identify with people, helping them realize their strengths,” Hughes said.

This ability to relate and guide others towards their goals did not manifest from nothing. It comes in part from Terika’s own non-traditional journey as a student.

“I went to college immediately out of high school and began exploring my niches,” Hughes said. “Soon after, my father passed, and I left school.”

“I did not return until eight years later, and in that time, I earned two credentials, got married, and had children,” Hughes continued. “When I’m talking to students now, I can tell them I did not have a cookie-cutter approach to earning my degrees. A lot of life happened between when I started college and eight years later when I went back to finish.”

Now with an MBA and working towards her doctorate, Terika is the first to bring up the importance of the credentials she earned in her time away from school. 

“I’m able to share with students how my credentials helped me upskill and contribute more in the workforce,” Hughes said. “Having technical experience along with academic experience makes me a better worker.”

And that’s exactly what Southwest’s Career Training program is designed to do: foster a more vibrant, diverse, and equipped workforce. Their program offers Comp TIA A+ IT Certifications, Human Resources training, Contractor courses, Robotics training, Freight Driving training, Allied Health training, and Defensive Driving courses, among many others. Southwest’s career training has something for everyone, both online and in-person. 

They accomplish this through partnerships with local and national businesses and organizations like ours here at HireLocal. Southwest’s employer partners let them know what roles need to be filled, and Southwest helps provide quality and employees via their specified training.

Designed for ultimate flexibility, Southwest’s certification and training courses can be taken on an as-desired basis. Whether someone is enrolled as a Southwest student or not does not eliminate their eligibility.

“We are creating easy-to-access pathways that lead to better jobs for our students,” Hughes said. “Want to earn certifications while getting your two-year degree? Great! Want to come back after graduation to get a credential? Sure. Want to work for a few years first? No problem.”

“There are no barriers,” Hughes said. “There is nothing that is going to keep you from coming back to reskilling or upskilling. We have a responsibility as a community college to empower our community.”

At HireLocal, we cherish our partnership with Terika and Southwest’s Career Training initiative. Southwest facilitates soft skill training for us, helping prep our students for CNA courses and certification tests.

There are no limits to one’s potential when given access to the tools and encouragement necessary for success. Southwest helps provide them. 

To learn more about Southwest’s Career Training program, click here.

And follow them on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date!

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