Starkloff Career Academy Spring 2020 Capstone Course Survives the Coronavirus

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Schools and businesses are closed, sports complexes sit deserted and our most anticipated events are canceled or postponed. But the Starkloff Career Academy Capstone Course continues, with the same spirit of resourcefulness and adaptability it instills in all of its candidates.

Near the halfway point of the Spring 2020 term, growing concerns amid the Coronavirus pandemic made it clear that there was no way the Capstone Course could proceed as normal. Considering the fact that students across the country are still able to attend classes online, and many workers can perform their job duties remotely, videoconferencing seemed like a good option to consider.

But what would the Capstone Course be without the element of in-person interaction? Would a completely virtual format offer the same value to job seekers with disabilities?

After careful consideration, Susan Menhard, Director of the Starkloff Career Academy, reached the decision to conduct the remainder of the course online, allowing candidates to build upon what they learned during the initial weeks of class. Despite some early adversity, she feels good about how things are progressing.

“I think videoconferencing is a good thing. We do not have to cancel the classes. It also presents opportunities to problem solve, analyze, learn where the gaps are and challenge ourselves to practice differently,” Susan explains. “The first week of transitioning to the virtual sessions was a bit bumpy. Some members could not afford the equipment and/or wireless services to access the course. However, we just wrapped up the second week of online classes and it looks like we have tackled the major barriers.”

In terms of hands-on activities, however, there are some limitations to what can be done online. For example, the interactive workshops offered by COCAbiz have quickly become highlights of the course, but their unique improv training and artistic exercises could be difficult to replicate over a videoconferencing platform.

Fortunately, two of the three COCAbiz presentations planned for the spring 2020 class had already taken place before the switch to virtual, and Susan says course participants made the most of them.

“The COCAbiz staff and trainers were very impressed with our candidates, as was I,” Susan recalls. “The group’s immediacy connecting job-search activities to the art-based concepts and practices was remarkable.”

As usual, the Spring 2020 Capstone Course includes enthusiastic candidates of all ages and walks of life. Susan is impressed with the diversity of backgrounds and credentials.

“Career experiences include mechanical repair, IT, administrative, computer science, industrial mechanics, music teacher, occupational therapy, customer service, social work and administrative support. Two of the members are recent graduates and two are veterans,” Susan states. “The group has a lot of energy, they are finding the course content very helpful and they have a lot of fun.”

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