Gatton Introduces Summer Skills Project to Replace Canceled Internships

Summer is a popular time for students to participate in internships to gain real-world experience to add to their resumes. The pandemic has caused employers to move their internships online, cut their programs short, or cancel internships altogether. This has left many Gatton students with their summer plans not coming to fruition. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports as of May 1, about 22 percent of student internships have been canceled, and UK students have certainly felt the impact.

In response, The Graham Office of Career Management has developed the Summer Skills Project to help students gain the skills and networking opportunities they need.

According to internship manager Laura Herchenbach, “We were asking students to find creative and flexible ways to stay engaged in their career journeys this summer. However, this is a big undertaking and we were finding that students did not know where to begin. Our team wanted to provide structure and accountability to help students continue to build their skills.” 

The free program was capped at 100 students and all the spots were filled in less than a week. Students selected from four pathways: Data Analytics, Digital Marketing, Project Management, and Excel. The work is all done virtually so students are able to complete it at a time that is convenient for their schedules.

Joy Powell `22 said, “I decided to participate in this program after I was furloughed from a summer internship due to the pandemic. It’s important for me to continue learning as much as I can during these times. I have already gained so much knowledge that will help me excel in my future career.”

The six-week project began on June 15 and runs through July 31. It includes StrengthsFinder assessments, professional brand development through LinkedIn, and learning new skills through online courses and relevant real-world projects.

The project was made possible through the generosity of the Gatton College’s alumni base and Emerging Leaders Board. Alumni devote an hour each week to virtually meet with a small group of students and discuss the skills they are learning and how they relate to the world of business. In this way, soft skills that students gain in an internship setting can be translated to a virtual space.

“The Summer Skills Project has given me the opportunity to set myself apart from others,” said Sophia Zaidi `21. “I’ve learned how to articulate my resume and LinkedIn profile and reflect on the kind of person I am and what my strengths are.”

Topics discussed during the virtual meetings include skills alumni have learned in school versus on the job; the value of communication and teamwork in the workplace; and how they have used networking to land their jobs or further their careers.

So far, the Summer Skills Project has proven invaluable to students wishing to gain an advantage in today’s challenging job market. While another session isn’t currently planned for this summer, Gatton students can always schedule a virtual meeting to discuss any of the topics covered in the program or questions related to their career journeys.

Students interested in learning more can contact Laura Herchenbach or Sandy Anderson at the Graham Office of Career Management.