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Helping students articulate their skills

New tool recognized nationally as innovative practice.

There is a lot of talk about a ‘skills gap,’ but ‘skills awareness gap’ may be more accurate.

Queen’s students acquire many skills — skills learned in class, developed in workplaces, sharpened in the lab, honed on the field, practiced on the stage, and demonstrated in their communities. But despite their numerous achievements, many students struggle to identify and explain those skills to potential employers.

To assist students in articulating their skills, Career Services has developed the Queen’s Skills Cards, an innovative card deck activity based on the Queen’s Learning Outcomes Framework and employer data on desired skills.

“The cards help students name and describe their skills, preparing them to approach the world of work with more confidence and a clearer sense of how different roles suit their strengths,” says Carli Fink, Career Counsellor in Career Services. “While they were created as a physical deck of cards for career counsellors to use in appointments and workshops, a virtual version is now online and accessible wherever students may be in this time of physical distancing and remote learning. Faculty and staff members may want to integrate them into their classes or activities, and we would be happy to consult with them on how the cards can be used.”

Students who worked with the cards in workshops and classes this winter, before the pandemic hit, found them very helpful:

“I don’t normally think about my skills, as much as my options after graduation,” said a fourth year Psychology student. “This activity helped me see that there are many options, and deciding which is the best fit is more about what I enjoy and what I am good at than the title of my degree.”

“The cards gave me a way to describe skills I already knew I had, but didn’t know how to explain to employers, particularly those outside of academia,” said a Global Development Studies graduate student.

“I came in here really anxious about writing my resume and applying for summer internships, but this gave me more confidence,” said a second-year international student in the School of Computing. “I realized that I do have some relevant experiences — even if they’re not all related to my major.”

Career Services, which is part of the Division of Students Affairs, has been recognized with the Excellence in Innovation: Student Engagement award from the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers (CACEE) for the Skills Cards.

CACEE also named Cathy Keates, Director of Queen’s Career Services and Experiential Learning, as the recipient of the 2020 Regional Recognition Award – Ontario, and JoAnne Metcalfe, formerly of Career Services and now with Corporate Relations in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, was recognized with a new member recognition award.

To learn more about the Skills Cards and how to help students by incorporating them into a class or other student activity, contact mycareer@queensu.ca.