Noncredit programs at the Navy Yard sharpen workforce, cultivate technical skill

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Employees at the Navy Yard are sharpening their technical and interpersonal skills to become more influential leaders, communicators and workers — right in their own backyard.

Penn State at The Navy Yard now offers academic and professional programming through Penn State Great Valley in Malvern. In addition to the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business)-accredited MBA program, professionals have access to noncredit certificates and courses, including project management and leadership development.

For professional development students like Sherrie Johnson, Angel Del Molino, John Simpson, Conor McGuckin and Brandon Faubert, this meant they could attend classes one evening a week and earn a certificate within a matter of months — all without having to disrupt their schedules and workplace commutes.

Project management and PMP exam preparation

Sherrie Johnson and Angel Del Molino, both project planners at the Philly Shipyard, enrolled in Penn State’s certificate program to gain a holistic perspective of project management.

The sequential, four-course program focuses on project initiation and planning, scheduling and integration, costing and control, and risk and change management. From the beginning of the cohort, students are divided into groups and assigned to a real-world project on which they build throughout each class.

“The best thing about the program is the structure of the four classes,” said Johnson. “It was my first time working a project from start to finish with a team. I have only been working in this field for a year and the program gave me a whole new outlook.”

For Molino, not only could he apply concepts learned in the classroom to the Philly Shipyard, but it also opened his eyes to how other industries handle tasks. It established a common language and understanding that he could immediately bring to work.

“This program has helped me see projects from a perspective other than a shipyard,” he said. “It showed me that all projects are unique, but they can all be completed using a variety of tools and techniques that are common to most projects. Being able to put these tools and techniques into projects different from our regular jobs made it all much more understandable.”

Having now obtained their certificates, they’ve set their sights on something else: obtaining the prestigious Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. Both Johnson and Del Molino are currently enrolled in Penn State’s PMP Exam Preparation course to get ready for the test.

Leadership development

John Simpson and Conor McGuckin, also planners at Philly Shipyard, discovered Penn State at The Navy Yard through an onsite lunch-and-learn event. When the leadership development certificate launched that fall, they immediately enrolled, along with Brandon Faubert, an in-service engineering agent at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

Designed to create a unique, personal journey, the program prepares professionals to be effective leaders, focusing on communication, behavior and values. Students take courses in individualized development, change management, decision making and strategic planning.

Most recently, Simpson, McGuckin and Faubert took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment in their decision-making course to better understand their thought processes. All three agreed that learning more about themselves was revolutionary in understanding how they work with others, in both their immediate teams and entire organizations.

“Working in a production atmosphere you have to deal with many different types of people, whose priorities all differ and sometimes seem to contradict,” said Faubert. “This program, especially the MBTI assessment, has taught us how to approach and accommodate all stakeholders in unique situations. We learned something during each class that I applied the very next day at work. This program is not about giving you the formula to become a leader, but giving you the tools and insight to develop yourself.”

Now in their fourth course, the students will focus on the responsibility of senior management, turning visions into reality and gaining an advantage in a competitive market.

Noncredit courses allow students to quickly obtain new skills, apply them to a real-life setting, and enhance their resumes.

“I’m so proud to see our programs at the Navy Yard pick up momentum over the last two years,” said Ed Weckerly, director of professional programs for both Penn State Great Valley and Penn State at The Navy Yard. “Courses are taught by subject matter experts in their given field; it compliments student learning. We hear the term ‘rock star’ tossed around a little too freely, but these folks are special. They live, eat and breathe this material for a living and that makes a huge difference.” 

Weckerly also adds, “No matter if students enroll in our project management or leadership development certificate programs, they provide me with consistent feedback. They can apply what they learn to their work duties not just after a full course or entire program — but after a single class! Now that is taking learning to a whole new level!”

With free parking and easy access to major highways, Penn State’s location at the Navy Yard is ideal for professionals in Philadelphia, South Jersey and Delaware.  Most courses are held weekly from 5 to 8 p.m. over the course of seven weeks. A full list of programs can be found online.