In addition to management and human resources, public administration theory and finance, students in UGA’s top ranked Master of Public Administration program are now getting lessons in an area that employers say they need: soft skills.
Taught by faculty and staff from UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, MPA Student Professional Development: Soft Skills includes six workshops that help the students understand business etiquette and self-motivation, skills that make them more marketable once they receive their degrees.
“We focused on picking workshops that provide training in as many personal skills as possible, including things as basic as what to wear to work, how to introduce yourself properly, effective communication and how to address a conflict early on,” said Stacy Jones, associate director for governmental training, education and development at the Institute of Government, a public service and outreach unit.
The program was developed by Andrew Grandage and Jacob Wingate, both graduate students in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs. As a graduate assistant for the Institute of Government, Grandage helped with the governor’s High Demand Career Initiative, where he learned about the value employers place on soft skills. Wingate also is a graduate assistant at the institute, coordinating its student internship programs.
Aaron Redmon, the MPA recruitment and career services coordinator for SPIA’s public administration department, said the classes are especially important to younger students who come directly into the MPA program without spending time in the workforce.
“Some haven’t had the on-the-job opportunities to learn soft skills like professional etiquette, public presenting and conflict management,” Redmon said. “That is why this is so beneficial to our students; it provides them with these critical lessons now so they do not have to learn them the hard way while on the job.”
The connection with Vinson also is a benefit for the students, many of whom could be working in the public sector one day.
“They will have firsthand experience working with the institute, planting a seed for future partnerships for education and development,” Wingate said.
Sachi Delacruz, a second-year student in the MPA program, said she’s better prepared to communicate professionally with future colleagues and supervisors.
“It’s helpful to talk about the importance to have constant professionalism that allows you to build and maintain relationships,” Delacruz said. “Most of our classes are big picture and theory, but this gets down to the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to walk into professional situations and what to do when you’re there.”