New Summer Skills Accelerator Offers Fords Free Training and Experience
In a time of coronavirus-necessitated quarantine and uncertain summer work options, the Center for Career and Professional Advising has created a series of workshops, seminars, and self-guided learning experiences designed to enrich and expand student skill sets.
Each year the Center for Career and Professional Advising (CCPA) helps hundreds of Fords find and apply for summer jobs and internships. But with the COVID-19 pandemic making travel difficult and in-person work experience unpredictable, the Center leaped into action to create new programming to support students and broaden their skills.
The result is the CCPA’s new Summer Skills Accelerator (SSA), a curated collection of free, non-credit seminars, workshops, and self-guided learning opportunities designed and led by Haverford alumni, staff, and friends of the College for current and graduating students. SSA’s slate of classes kicks off May 15 with the first of a two-session Excel training hosted by Philadelphia financial services firm Public Financial Management. So far, its summer-long schedule includes 29 other seminars led by 18 alumni, 16 staff members, and one friend. (Additional programming, panelists, and sections are continuing to be added. Student sign-up is ongoing.)
“As soon as classes went to virtual learning and our work went remote, we realized some of our students' internships and jobs were going to be cancelled, postponed, or deferred,” said Amy Feifer, dean of career and professional advising and associate dean of the College. “We couldn’t control that, but what we could control was coming up with ways to provide a forum for students to develop and enhance professionals skills or gain industry knowledge that they would have gotten from a summer experience.”
That forum—the SSA—includes live virtual offerings that meet up to eight times, depending on the facilitator and curriculum, as well as self-guided opportunities that can be done at the students’ own pace. Feifer notes that there were almost 2000 spots available for the live workshops, and they are filling up quickly. Some popular courses, such as Aesop Academy's one on data analytics, already have waitlists and the CCPA is trying to facilitate additional sections.
“I signed up for the summer course on ‘Persuasive Legal Writing’ put together by the CCPA,” said Noorie Chowdhury ’21, who has created her own independent major in politics, philosophy, and economics. “[I’m] so grateful to you guys for putting these programs together for us, amidst all the uncertainty of not knowing where in the world I'm going to be through the summer. It's reassuring that I'll be using the time to learn and move forward, regardless!”
The seminar Chowdhury is taking will be taught by Helen Chae MacLeod ’90, a commercial litigator who also teaches “Advanced Legal Writing” at Boston College Law School. It launches June 1 and will meet twice a week for four weeks. But several of the other workshops are less of a time commitment, with students meeting only once to learn GIS mapping basics with Haverford Instructional Technology and Training Specialist Sharon Strauss or fundraising for startups and nonprofits with Oscar Wang ’14, founder of College Together.
“I am especially proud of the generosity of the alumni and staff leading these workshops,” said Amanda Dennis ’18, CCPA’s programming and communications coordinator. “I have no doubt that they all have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, and yet when called upon, they gladly stepped up to donate their time, energy, and expertise to helping Haverford students.”
In addition to the more than 30 alumni and staff facilitators leading workshops and seminars, the SSA owes its existence to the CCPA’s partners across campus including IITS, the Student Engagement and Leadership Office, Alumni Relations, and the employees of Haverford College Libraries. The latter is responsible for a series of library research workshops which will cover diverse topics from online identity management, working with primary sources, statistical evidence, project management, and more.
In fact, the SSA includes workshop, seminar, and self-guided learning options for students of all majors, career interests, and skill levels. Students can learn basic video production, communications strategies, facets of consulting careers, science career assessments, and language instruction. There is even a life-skills workshop, “Capitalism Survival Guide: Money, Housing, Jobs, and other Real World Skills,” in which Keith Weissglass ’05, director of marketing for international philanthropy NGO Give2Asia, will help students learn how to manage expenses, debts, and other requirements of “adulting.”
“One of our popular SSA courses is ‘Coding for Non-Coding Majors,’ which highlights the desire for Haverford students who may not be on a computer science track to gain basic coding literacy, an essential workplace skill in any sector,” said Laura Reiter, CCPA associate director for employer and institutional partnerships. “Not every Haverford student has the bandwidth in their curriculum choices to take a full academic course in computer science, and the SSA course in coding may help address that gap.”
That seminar, led by Alloy Senior Software Engineer Brian Guggenheimer '16, was so popular, in fact, that two additional sections had to be created to meet the level of interest.
The SSA has been well received by students, who are grateful for the chance to develop new skills during this unusual upcoming summer. CCPA staffers believe the program will allow Fords to demonstrate to future employers that they proactively took creative steps to improve their proficiencies and career readiness during difficult times.
“While employers recognize the unique circumstances of these times, they will also be interested to know how students spent their summers,” said CCPA Fellowship and Career Advisor Jason Chan. “Any of these workshops would be great to include on a resume.”