FutureReady equips undergrads for an ever-changing work world
Succeeding in the workplace isn’t just about having the right degree. There are soft skills that students might not learn in the classroom but will need to thrive outside of school.
That was the thinking behind FutureReady, a professional skills program designed to help undergraduate students develop essential skills to support themselves beyond their time at university.
“Our mission is to support students to develop the skills they need to successfully transition into the workforce at a time when the world of work is changing rapidly,” says Andrea Taylor, project coordinator for the FutureReady program at the university’s Student Success Centre.
Run in collaboration with many student services and university partners, FutureReady provides undergraduate students and recent alumni the opportunity to build on five core skills: communication and digital capabilities; career development; innovation and entrepreneurship; leadership and collaboration; and growth and balance.
The series of offerings change each term. “This ensures the program always remains current and aligned with workforce trends,” Taylor says.
She adds that the workshops are based on an experiential learning model where students have the opportunity to practice the skills they’re learning within the sessions and work with their peers.
“We’re seeing students come together and build relationships across disciplines, which is really exciting.”
‘An extra edge’
In the communication and digital capabilities module, students can attend sessions on how to build their personal brand and tell their own stories. They will also learn how to have difficult conversations that require honesty, empathy and vulnerability.
For the leadership and collaboration module, participants can develop their skills in areas such as group facilitation, designing and leading workshops and project management.
Computer science student Joanna Lau Ah Wing says taking a session from the communication and digital capabilities stream helped give her an extra edge in the job hunt.
“After attending a workshop about public speaking, I was inspired to join Toastmasters and work on communicating better. That certainly helped me articulate my thoughts during interviews.”
FutureReady’s innovation and entrepreneurship module includes an introduction to design thinking session, in collaboration with Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Center.
For the career development module, FutureReady works with Career and Planning Services to help students think more broadly and creatively about their career path. Students can attend “live from the field” sessions at local employers like WeWork Montreal and engage in Q&As with company founders.
Psychology student Rima Oassey appreciated that FutureReady sessions were broadly applicable to students of all faculties.
“Any undergraduate student in any program can find workshops that would be beneficial for them,” she says.
“I really enjoyed the events that pushed me to improve my networking and communication skills. As well, all of the FutureReady workshops I have attended have had incredibly welcoming and engaging environments.”
Pick and choose your sessions or work toward a certificate
While students are welcome to take one-off sessions from each of the modules, the Student Success Centre also designed a certificate that participants can work toward by completing four sessions in the same module.
“We want to facilitate a deeper learning experience for students working toward a certificate,” Taylor says. “At the end of a module, students spend time reflecting on the breadth of skills they gained from the combination of experiences and how they’ll apply that learning in different contexts.”
The Student Success Centre team conceived the concept for FutureReady in 2017. The team began to research existing literature on the future of work and consulted across the university and with Montreal-area employers to determine what skills students should enhance while at Concordia.
“We want the program to complement in-class learning and provide an environment where students can explore and experiment,” Taylor adds.
The centre launched FutureReady in September 2018 as a pilot, with four core skill areas. Since then, students have attended its workshops more than 1,500 times, with 41 per cent of them coming from the Faculty of Arts and Science, 23 per cent from the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, 20 per cent from the John Molson School of Business and almost seven per cent from the Faculty of Fine Arts. Independent students make up the balance.
The program has already issued 72 certificates.
“This program is no ‘Leadership 101.’ It’s dynamic and unique and reflects the values of Concordia,” says Laura Mitchell, executive director of Student Services.
“Now our undergraduate students have a professional skills training program to help them develop applied skills for the workplace as they study and, best of all, in an engaging and active way.”
FutureReady recently added an online offering in collaboration with the Concordia Library, and the program is also allowing students to count their own experience — for example, at a part-time job, learning conflict-resolution or interpersonal skills in real time — toward a certificate.
The program also offers a tailored skills certificate for student athletes, in partnership with Recreation and Athletics.
Ornella Zaatar, an international business and marketing student and former Stingers varsity basketball player, encourages her peers to take advantage of the various workshops on offer.
“I want other students to take this opportunity. It will help them build a strong and successful future,” she says.
Want to build your soft skills and prepare for the job market of tomorrow? Read more about Concordia’s upcoming FutureReady sessions.