UC helps non-traditional students earn professional credentials

Leading-edge IT certificate training provided at no-cost to Ohio residents

Thanks to a grant awarded to the University of Cincinnati, unemployed Nikki Little was able to earn her professional credentials to retrain and improve her chances of getting back into the workforce.

Little wasn't used to being unemployed. She had worked as a professional for more than 20 years. For more than half of that time, she served in the role of producer/director for WCET public television before eventually moving on to become the chief operating officer for a local gas supply company.

But like many Ohioans, she was laid off last spring because of cutbacks due to COVID-19.

Nikki Little

Nikki Little

A mother of two and an adept on-the-job project manager, Little formalized her training with coursework through UC's Office of Professional and Continuing Education offered by the Division of Experience-Based Learning and Career Education

During the early months of the pandemic, with her two children attending school through distance-learning, Little participated in both the CAPM® and Microsoft Excel courses online, earning both certificates in record time.

The Microsoft Excel training course offered through OPCE is just one part of the strategic agreement announced last October with Microsoft to develop tech talent in our region. The focus on increasing tech-based skills includes both traditional students, and non-traditional students, such as Little.

"Whether you’re new to technology or an IT expert, industry-recognized certifications are stackable credentials that you can add to your resume or LinkedIn profile to position yourself for critical in-demand jobs," said Cat Stolar, future-ready skills lead at Microsoft Worldwide Education.

Whether you’re new to technology or an IT expert, industry-recognized certifications are stackable credentials that you can add to your resume or LinkedIn profile to position yourself for critical in-demand jobs.

Cat Stolar, Microsoft Worldwide Education

These programs were partially funded through a grant from Ohio's Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP). Administered through the Office of Professional and Continuing Education, the office has received 658 applicants since the program began in September 2020 – proof positive that UC is helping to get Ohioans who are unemployed, under-employed, or low-income trained and ready to go back to work.

Beyond earning her credentials, Little is making use of the job-skills support for mid-career professionals offered by ELCE's NEXT Apprenticeship Program, a program unique to UC.

OPCE is also providing certificate classes for non-traditional students with funding through a Department of Labor grant and, for some residents of Hamilton county, connecting them to Community Action Agency for financial assistance while they participate in the certificate training.

Professional development courses also serve as an important on-ramp for individuals in the community who want to matriculate at UC. Marquis, who is currently enrolled in the March Cybersecurity Bootcamp, offered through the Ohio Cyber Range Institute, is working with the CECH Student Recruitment office to transfer his previous credits to complete his degree at UC. 

In addition, OPCE is offering non-traditional students access to the School of Inofrmation Technology Workforce Development Program with leading-edge, high-growth professional certificate courses such Microsoft Azure cloud computing.

"Microsoft Azure is one of the leading cloud service providers," said Nisar Ahmad, a systems engineer and author of MyVirtualJourney.com. "By earning any or all of the Azure role-based certifications, you can ensure professional career development and recognition in the market."

Together with UC faculty and our partnership with Microsoft, the Office of Professional and Continuing Education serves as a doorway to provide members of our greater community a path to retrain and upskill to return to the workforce. Offering the right programs to help get people good jobs is a main focus.

"The partnership between the University of Cincinnati and Microsoft allows us to explore agile ways to redefine educational models to support the talent needs of the region,” Stolar said.

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