Industry professionals to visit Soft Skill Symposium

The Smith Career Center will host a Soft Skills Symposium, the first of its kind, March 29 and 30. Sponsored by Caterpillar Inc., this event will feature presentations and discussions from prominent Peoria leaders on various topics, including professionalism, critical thinking and cultural sensitivity.

The aim of the program is to benefit students and faculty from the insights of local professionals and to learn how they can develop their own soft skills with others and within the workplace.

“We designed the program like you would a professional development conference,” Dawn Koeltzow, Director of the Springer Center for Internships, said. “[There will be] a keynote, breakout sessions and lunchtime roundtable discussions, and we thought the students could kind of come and go as it fits their class schedule.”

Koeltzow said she hopes students utilize the program to improve their skills before entering real-world professional settings.

“We want there to be a program where students can reflect and think about where they’re at with their soft skills and maybe leave the sessions with ways they can improve,” Koeltzow said.

The program will also include a lunch buffet and a chance to network with companies from Bradley’s employer advisory board, which Koeltzow said will benefit students of all years and majors.

“It’s really good for not only upperclassmen who will be entering the work place soon, but for freshmen and everyone going into an internship,” Koeltzow said. “You want to start demonstrating these professional skills right away.”

According to Koeltzow, the breakout sessions seek to educate and develop skills that aren’t formally taught in the classroom.

A keynote speaker for the program is New York Times best-selling author Lindsey Pollak, who is recognized for being outspoken on how young professionals can succeed in today’s work environment.

“[Pollak] came here very early on in her career … we’ve wanted to get [her] back to Bradley for many years,” Koeltzow said. “She’s the perfect mentor for professionalism and soft skills development. She’s a role model.”

Junior criminal justice major Brandon Sheraden will be hosting a session on diversity and inclusion, and he said he believes the topic is important in everyone’s personal and professional development.

“It’s important in itself because once you get in the work force or even in a group project here on campus, you’ll meet people from all different kinds of backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses,” Sheraden said. “You get to see different viewpoints of topics that you’re discussing that you may not have thought of before … and also just how to relate to one another.”

Sheraden said he also believes people should take their time to develop skills like communication and teamwork, as they may be hindered by our attachment to technology.

“In the workforce, you’re going to need to relate to other people, and you need to develop these skills,” Sheraden said. “Because if you don’t do it now, once you get out there and you try to talk to someone, it won’t end up too well.”

Other speakers include Lisa Plantamura from UnityPoint Health and Steve Lawrence from Caterpillar, among others.

Advanced registration for the event is being taken now for the symposium, which will begin in the Student Center Ballroom at 2 p.m. March 29 and continue at 10 a.m. March 30. Registration can be found on the Smith Career Center’s website.