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Building Your Skills Through Training and Volunteer Opportunities

New Skills directional sign

Nicole Vignone-Kiborn

Now that exams are done and your assignments have been submitted, how will you spend your time? You can definitely take some time to relax – you deserve it! Some of you will then start your summer classes and others will be busy with work. Some students, though, will find that they suddenly have more free time. If that is you, this is an ideal time to develop those skills which will set you apart in the job market. There are many training opportunities available online which can give your resume a boost, and many volunteer opportunities which will allow you to help your community while also improving your skill set. Check out some of these opportunities below.

Training Opportunities

LinkedIn Learning – Formerly Lynda.com, LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform which is available to University of Windsor faculty, staff, and students with a valid UWinID. You can learn business, technology, and creative skills all at your own pace. With topics as diverse as Office 365, Customer Service Strategies, SEO Foundations, Blockchain Basics, AutoCAD 2019, Accounting Foundations, InDesign, Cloud Computing, Decoding Body Language, and Writing with Flair, there is something for everyone, no matter your career goals. You will receive course recommendations based on the skills you are interested in and trending topics, but can also just explore the vast collection of learning opportunities available at your fingertips. There are brief courses offering you the chance to learn in 30 minutes or less. There are also opportunities to complete multiple courses as part of a learning path where you can really hone your skills in a certain area. For example, there are learning paths such as “Publish an eBook” or “Improve Your Web Design Coding Skills”. Each of these has 7 courses and if you are considering a related career, completing all of them would be a great way to gain some of the key knowledge and skills necessary for that career path. LinkedIn Learning allows you to set a goal and also keep track of your progress which can be helpful when creating a resume or preparing for an interview.

UWindsor Continuing Education – UWindsor has already provided you with a great education with the courses you have taken while working towards your degree. Did you know that UWindsor can continue to provide you with learning opportunities that facilitate personal and professional growth, even after you graduate? Continuing Education offers programs to enhance skills for professionals in Engineering & Technology and Health Care, as well as a variety of workshops and certificates in areas such as International Trade & Border Management, Visual Arts, and Technical Writing. Take a look at their offerings to see how they might have just what you need to take your skills to the next level.

Take a “MOOC” – Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) providers offer courses from universities and other institutions across the world on any topic you could imagine. Some of the popular platforms include Coursera, EdX, and Udacity. Many of these courses are free, and some currently have special discounts available due to COVID-19. Typically, you will have access to on-demand streaming video lectures and tutorials, interactive learning exercises, online forums for students to connect and ask questions, and self-paced quizzes.

Learn a Language – This is an ideal time to expand your horizons by studying a new language. Some websites to consider include Duolingo and Babbel which both offer personalized lessons you can access anywhere.  In addition to learning a new language, this is also a great time to brush up on your communication skills in English. Some of the training options listed above may be a good source for courses that will help you sharpen your professional writing and speaking skills so you can make a great impression on your future employer.

What training opportunity should I pursue?

With such a variety of learning opportunities available, you may be wondering what to focus on. Think about your future career and the skills most in demand in the field you are interested in pursuing. Perhaps looking at the skills listed in job postings for positions you aspire to would be a good start. In our next article we will talk about networking remotely, and reaching out to your network for their suggestions is another useful strategy. Truthfully, any learning that you do will be valuable to you either personally or professionally, and so if you find yourself intrigued by a certain topic and want to learn more, even if it’s something you had never really thought about before, go for it!

Volunteer Opportunities

Another great way to strengthen your skill set is by volunteering. You may be able to apply some of the knowledge you’ve gained for a worthwhile cause. For example, if you are able to assist an organization with their social media presence, or are able to help a high school student with their math lesson, you will have the opportunity to practice your skills while also supporting the  community during this very challenging time.

However, it may be the case that the needs of the community do not necessarily align with your degree or future career plans. If so, volunteering can still be a great way to build the skills that employers are looking for. A 2020 survey found that employers are looking for employees with attributes including: Problem-solving skills, Ability to work in a team, Strong work ethic, Leadership, and Initiative. Almost any volunteer role can provide you with opportunities to develop these qualities. For example, if you are working to help distribute food or hand sanitizer, you will be working as part of a team and may encounter unexpected issues you need to resolve. The fact that you are willing to volunteer shows a prospective employer your work ethic and initiative, but what will be highly valuable is that you will have experience to draw from when you are asked behavioural interview questions. To learn more about articulating your skills and preparing for interviews, make sure to attend our workshops which will be offered online this term. Watch for more details on this coming soon.

While details have not yet been released, the Government of Canada has stated that they will be  launching the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), which will help students gain valuable work experience and skills while they help their communities during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Up to $5000 may be available towards your education in the Fall. Further information should be available soon – This could be another great benefit you could receive when you decide to volunteer!

Where to Find Volunteer Opportunities

You may already have an idea of where you’d like to help out. If there is an organization that has helped you in the past, or an organization you’ve always admired, contact them directly to offer your services. If you are looking for ideas, especially those focused on the COVID-19 response, we offer some suggestions below.

In Windsor, the United Way and their community partners are currently working to provide solutions to Windsor-Essex County food challenges. To volunteer for the Windsor Essex COVID-19 Emergency Response please call 519-259-6177 or email rsvp@weareunited.com

Volunteer Canada is currently recruiting people interested in COVID-19 response volunteer opportunities that are connected to local volunteer centres. As well, there are opportunities listed for Virtual Volunteering Opportunities. These virtual projects and roles are available to support organizations in local communities or across the globe, and they can be done from anywhere with an Internet connection. Many of the opportunities are skills-based and could include tasks such as: graphic design, translation or proofreading of documents, social media posting and blogs, mentoring or tutoring, and telephone assurance for seniors.

Another website to check out is SPARK Ontario. Together with the Government of Ontario, they are connecting volunteers with community response efforts to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some opportunities currently posted include delivering food, writing letters to seniors, and sewing cloth masks.

Whether you choose to enhance your skill set through pursuing training opportunities or you make a valuable contribution as a volunteer, it will be time well spent. You will have more skills and experiences to share with your future employers. Yes, take some time to relax, but then use this time to invest in yourself by building your skills.

Don’t forget that CDEL is here to help.

Visit mySuccess where you can access more of our services. There, you can book an appointment with an advisor, view our workshop recordings, or view job postings, including some for volunteer positions.

 

 

 

Nicole Vignone-Kiborn is a Career Advisor with Career Development and Experiential Learning.