UW-Madison offers professional development certificate focused on ‘soft skills’

June 3, 2016 By Dean Robbins

You’ve mastered your chosen field, with a bachelor’s degree and impressive skills related to your discipline. But what about “soft skills,” such as communication, project management, and leadership? Surveys of senior-level executives indicate that businesses require competence in these areas and often find applicants lacking.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Foundations of Professional Development capstone certificate provides a complete toolkit for well-rounded professionals. Graduates gain a competitive edge by learning how to lead teams, create and deliver dynamic presentations, and understand legal, financial and marketing concepts, among other essential skills.

Photo: Christine Nicometo

Christine Nicometo

Photo: Jeffrey Russell

Jeffrey Russell

“Foundations of Professional Development is a flexible online program that will help busy professionals advance their careers,” says Jeffrey S. Russell, dean of the Division of Continuing Studies and vice provost for lifelong learning. “Students benefit from the high quality instructors at a top-ranked research university, earning credits that can transfer to other UW–Madison online graduate programs.”

Courses are offered through UW–Madison’s College of Engineering and are applicable to a wide range of careers. The approach is multidisciplinary, with instructors drawn from across campus.

“These are high-level courses that require students to be actively engaged,” says Philip O’Leary, chair of the UW–Madison Department of Engineering Professional Development. “As a result, they will leave the program confident in their ability to add value to any workplace and to be competitive at a personal, team and organizational level. Employers increasingly strive to attract, retain and promote individuals with a broad set of skills.”

The program’s web conferences are highly interactive, allowing students to make personal connections with others from diverse disciplines. Instructors help them devise projects that are relevant to their current jobs.

Each course is eight weeks long, and students complete the certificate at a pace that fits their schedules and their budgets. It can be done in less than an academic year.

“In Foundations of Professional Development, students learn today’s top professional competencies,” says program director Christine Nicometo. “Undergraduate degrees have prepared them to work well in their current field, but not across fields, as most jobs currently require. This capstone certificate program will help them become leaders in their organization by speaking its various languages, from marketing to legal, finance to research and development.”