Taliah Givens Helping Students Learn Career Skills

Taliah Givens HBCU Speaker

( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) United Negro College Fund Student Leadership Conferences and Beyond For Students

ENSPIRE Contributor: Petra Wolf

Taliah Givens is a leader at United Negro College Fund, managing over 40 internship programs designed to both build workforce diversity and provide diverse students with valuable career experience. Originally from Paterson, NJ,  She has developed a broad career in telecommunications and non-profit education sectors. A former engineer, she’s using her education to solve the social-educational equations of today for K-12 through higher education. In her current role as the Senior Director of UNCF Student Professional Development Programs, her department has served over 1600 students across various industries including education, STEM, financial services, public relations, publishing, entertainment, and health care. Givens and UNCF have helped people of color with funding for higher education and career readiness workshops to prepare them for the workforce.

Givens and UNCF hosted the first Student Leadership Conference in Rockville, MD. This has been their first conference since before the pandemic. The Student Leadership Conference worked to give rising juniors and seniors from across the country opportunities. Activities at the event included an intense training simulation with coaching from high-level business and nonprofit professionals. Students also attended workshops to equip them with the skills needed to be successful as interns and in the workforce. 

ENSPIRE spoke directly with Givens about her advice for students and the impact of UNCF around the country. 

As the Senior Director of Student Professional Development at UNCF, can you provide some practical tips on how students can effectively plan for the transition from college to entering the workforce?

Students should plan on having a goal of gaining 2 to 3 internship opportunities through their undergraduate career, as it will help them decide and learn if the field of study they have been focused on is right for them and it will also ensure that they are taking the right courses to assure a gradual entrance into the workforce. I would also suggest becoming a campus leader and getting involved in programs and services, and opportunities that will show you have great project management. Also of course becoming a part of UNCF’s Student Development Programs, as we help students prepare for that transition through resume and portfolio building, recommendations, internships, etc.

UNCF plays a vital role in developing minority students for college. Could you speak to the importance of such initiatives and how they contribute to creating a more inclusive and diverse educational landscape?

UNCF knows that for many students just getting to college was the goal for the family, we have many students that are the first in their families to attend college. So, we want to make sure that they complete this goal which, is why our scholarships are so important, we never want a student to have the dream but, get discouraged because of funds. Our scholarship and leadership opportunities are ‌helping our students get to and through college. We have also been able to provide emergency student aid for those unexpected expenses and unexpected emergencies that students may have come up with where there aren’t extra funds laying around for them to take care of things. Being able to allow students to just focus on their studies and not worry about funding and how they will stay in school to pay for their degree is a great reward for UNCF. When you remove the financial burden off students, you really allow them to blossom and dive deep into their personal and educational development.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been gaining increased recognition and prominence. How is UNCF actively involved in elevating HBCUs and supporting students in getting to college and successfully navigating their educational journey?

UNCF is more than just scholarships and that investment coming from our private sector and foundation sector is vital to assuring we are creating programs that apply to the marketplace and workplace and that we are investing in our HBCU education system. Creating opportunities to enhance what students are getting in the classroom is vital because, although students need to study their majors, they also need that extracurricular extra learning and what UNCF has done with our partner companies such as Walt Disney Company, Wells Fargo, and Papa Johns with our leadership conferences and workshops, we push our students to grow within undergraduate studies and post-graduation, and build them towards their careers.

Many students struggle to find the resources for college. What advice or resources can you offer to students to help them access the support they need to pursue higher education?

UNCF.org/students is at their fingertips! Students can go to our website, create a profile and find all information about scholarships, internships, development programs, and much more. Students can create their profiles as early as high school and we recommend annual updates with new GPAs, job experience, etc. so that when new scholarships and applications open up they don’t miss the notification. Also, don’t get discouraged while filling out an application, complete the application, even if you have to seek help to do so!

UNCF offers various programs for students. Could you share some insights into how students can become a part of these programs and benefit from the opportunities they provide?

Students can become a part of UNCF’s programs by simply going to UNCF.org and going to programs and applying. There are a lot of ways students can benefit from being a part of the program, of course, scholarships to help with the cost of college, which is what we are most known for. Aside from that, students can gain internship opportunities whether they attend one of our 37 UNCF member institutions, any HBCU, or any 4-year institution. We have to dispel the myth that you can only receive help from UNCF if you attend a certain number of schools, THAT IS NOT TRUE! We will give students support in professional development, resume building, and interview prep, and make sure they have the confidence to show up strong for every opportunity.

In your role at UNCF, you have worked extensively with students from diverse industries. Based on your experience, what are some key skills and qualities that students should focus on developing to ensure successful transitions from college to careers?

Skills and qualities differ depending on industries but across the board I would say that communication both spoken and written are key skills for students going into the workforce. Employers are looking for effective communicators to join their workplace, those that communicate well one on one and in group collaboration. Project management and how you manage your deliverables are also big in transitioning into the workforce. Being able to meet the demands and culture of the company you will look to join and financial literacy will also be important as students branch out.

Givens will soon release for first professional youth development book honoring her youth mentors. She plans to uncover new strategic opportunities within the urban center of Paterson, NJ that helped her in the past. She also wants to shift the college-career readiness paradigm to one of career exploration rather than college planning. With the recent Supreme Court decisions on both affirmative action and student debt relief, UNCF works even harder to support students, regardless if they plan to attend HBCUs or other institutions. 

You can donate to UNCF through their website here.

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