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New professional development training for graduate students

For busy graduate students working in labs, libraries and the field, it can be difficult to find time to chart life after graduation. Thanks to a new set of online training resources, it’s becoming easier to prepare for the working world.

A group of Ontario universities have collaborated together to create MyGradSkills.ca, a free online professional skills training website that’s tailored to graduate students’ distinct experience. Funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities through the Productivity and Innovation Fund, the site cultivates skills and abilities needed to thrive both during and after a student’s degree program.

Prabeen Joshi
Prabeen Joshi, a PhD candidate in Civil Engineering, participated in the modules' beta testing. 

“We’re excited about the opportunity MyGradSkills.ca provides to our graduate students and proud of the role we played in its creation,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “Preparing our students for careers after graduation is of the utmost importance to Queen’s and we believe the skills cultivated by these modules will serve them in academia and beyond.”

The modules, which feature articles, videos, quizzes and other interactive content, aim to develop skills that will serve graduate students in industry, governmental, non-profit and academic work. Of the available 18 modules, Queen’s was responsible for the creation of three on the topics of mental health (in collaboration with the University of Guelph), intercultural competency and the versatile graduate. Recognizing that graduate students have a distinct university experience with different challenges, the modules are tailored to their needs.

“The university experience is different for graduate students than it is for undergraduates,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “With their energies spent conducting high-level research, combing through literature and writing papers, it can be a challenge to allocate time to planning for life after graduation. These professional development modules, which can be accessed online at any time, will help our students prepare for what’s next.”

Sandra den Otter, Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies adds that “the modules give students the tools and the confidence to translate the skills that they are cultivating in their academic programs into skills that employers in a wide variety of occupations want.”

MyGradSkills.ca adds to the roster of programming already offered through the School of Graduate Studies’ Expanding Horizons series. These workshops and seminars are provided by the SGS in partnership with faculty and student service providers at Queen’s to support academic, personal and professional success.

“Because of the flexibility afforded by the online modules, they serve as an excellent complement to the in-person programming we offer year-round,” says Dr. Brouwer. “We also want the site to remain up to date, so every three years the modules will undergo thorough revisions. Minor changes will be made along the way as needed.”

Students gain access to the site through their university email accounts and can choose which modules they wish to take part in.

“The modules are easy to navigate, and are great at keeping you engaged,” says Prabeen Joshi, a Queen’s PhD candidate who took part in testing the modules. “MyGradSkills.ca covers a wide range of topics not usually covered in departmental courses. These modules are not just convenient, I think they’re essential.”