As a not-for-profit organization operating on Chicago’s South Side, Sustainable Options for Urban Living, Inc., or S.O.U.L., Inc., specializes in workforce development and entrepreneurial training in the construction trades. We focus on an all-inclusive, construction-related curriculum supported by a nationally recognized credentialing system, online support tools and partnerships with other nationally recognized not-for-profit organizations in the energy, training and coaching sectors.
In February 2020, we had a newly signed lease in hand and we were ready to hit the ground running for the year. Little did we know, COVID-19 was well on it’s way to the U.S. and the county was moving toward shutting down completely within six weeks. Our fledgeling organization faced a dilemma with our training and the ability to meet in person. The team had discussed an online option for our students, but had yet to implement the plan.
Along with a new rental agreement to fulfill, we also needed to redesign our plans for completing a training class we committed to a few months prior. Interplay Learning came to the rescue, and its platform gave us options that we thought were delayed or destroyed with the onset of COVID-19. The online training platform was the tool we needed to continue our training and keep our options open for the duration of the pandemic and beyond.
With Interplay’s SkillMill training platform, we are able to offer online training support options for a healthy portion of our curriculum. The ease of use is critical for our non-traditional students who may not have advanced technology skills.
Looking ahead, SkillMill will assist us in recruitment throughout the Midwest and additional areas of the country. We have requests to begin training in various locations, and having this option in our toolbox will be an asset to us.
As Sustainable Options for Urban Living, Inc. continues to grow, Interplay will definitely be a part of our processes. In addition to the S.O.U.L. Community Economic Development Center in the heart of Chicago’s South Side in the Chatham neighborhood, we are also scheduled to open the S.O.U.L. Genius Training Center in the South suburbs next spring. They will serve as assessment centers for our training and allow hands-on skills evaluations for students conducted in a socially distant manner. We will use the SkillMill platform in collaboration with the skills evaluations to help trainees move through modules at a faster rate, if they have the desire to do so.
While so many companies, large and small, are re-evaluating their use-of-space due to COVID-19, S.O.U.L. has had an opportunity to expand its footprint and offerings. We are fortunate to have two locations that support our construction trades workforce training and entrepreneurial development efforts. With the two training tracks, we believe we can support those searching for a career or a career change, as well as those individuals with a desire to become business owners and create jobs in their community.
Executive Director of Sustainable Options for Urban Living, Inc.
Cynthia Stewart is the Executive Director of Sustainable Options for Urban Living, Inc. She has a background in construction and community development and holds a Master’s from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Urban Planning. For almost thirty years, Cynthia has sought opportunities to uplift and improve the urban landscape. She is always looking for opportunities to assist small contractors, and she looks forward to utilizing the many “tools” in her toolbox, including Interplay Learning.