Brush Up on Your Skills: Staying Agile in CapNY

Learning a new skill for fun or to try and build up a side hustle is a great way to stay busy, meet new friends, and keep your portfolio diverse and interesting. 

When 2020 began, no one expected the year that was ahead of us. With the unexpected came job losses, transitions, or overall uncertainty for many of us. It brought to light a renewed importance on staying agile and prepared for anything. This became perfect timing to brush up on your skills. Here, finally, was time for taking a chance on something you’ve always been curious about. As we’ve seen, you truly never know what’s coming. 

Preparing for Another Future Economic Downtown

Saratoga Arts building

In October 2020, 77 percent of full-time freelancers were gearing up to prepare for future economic downturn by updating their skillset to stay nimble as industries change and respond. In the second half of 2020, more than 50 percent of freelancers participated in skill related education or training. They’re doing this for several reasons, to stay up-to-date, increase earning potential, and keep up with new technology.

“As actress Helen Hayes said, ‘if you rest, you rust.’ I’m always trying to learn something new. I’m constantly finding new trainings/courses on LinkedIn, through podcasts, Eventbrite and in digital newsletters,” said Kirsten Voege, Marketing & Communications Consultant and Owner of KiRated Communications. “It seems like many of the newsletters end up in my spam folder, so when I run out of new ideas, I check there, too.”

Here in CapNY, there are tons of options to sharpen your skills, learn something new, or get a refresher on something you’ve been doing for years.

Arts Organizations

Arts organizations are great place to brush up on creative skills, whether learning something new or expanding your knowledge base.

The Arts Center of the Capital Region
Group of people interacting at The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, NY.
The Arts Center of the Capital Region

Tap into your creative side with the fantastic offerings at the Arts Center. They have it all from woodworking and stained glass to fiber arts and digital mediums. These classes are a great way to try out a creative activity without having to commit to buying equipment and learning from a skilled instructor. Pricing is fair, too. Classes range in time commitment, some are one evening, some are a few sessions. But none of them top $200 and with an annual membership ($40) you get a discount on all classes. 

Saratoga Arts

Though they are known mostly for their public art projects, Saratoga Arts offers opportunities to make your own art as well. The latest offerings include in-depth photography courses –a skill that can be used for fun or to enhance your resume. Prices range from $75-80 for multi-week classes.

High Schools

Online classes

Your high school taught you the basics. But have you ever considered returning to one to learn a skill later in life? Many CapNY public high schools offer continuing education courses on a regular basis. 

In general, the courses range from basic computer skills to learning languages and creative skills like photography or graphic design. The South Colonie School District offers a range of classes including sewing, nutrition, beginning golf, and a Facebook crash course. Typically, classes are offered to residents of the district and courses are affordable, between $30 and $75 for a multi-week class. While many of the in-person offerings are on hold, some districts are offering classes online. The Bethlehem Central School District is teaching several classes through Zoom. 


You don’t need to sign up for a degree program to make the most of offerings at Capital Region colleges. These colleges and universities are natural places to brush up on your skills.

University at Albany Continuing Education 

Many colleges within the UAlbany system offer continuing education classes. Right now, they’re being offered virtually. The School of Social Welfare and the School of Education offer classes for mental health professionals that are timely like COVID-19 Recovery: The Psychosocial Challenges for Patients and Families and some more evergreen like Sleep: The Fourth Pillar of Health. The Center for Public Health Continuing Education also offers courses in public health, chronic disease, aging, and more. The best part? Most are free and self-guided!

Hudson Valley Community College

Community colleges are a great resource for skill-based courses offered on a regular basis. Typically community colleges are a good fit for people looking to get their feet wet before diving into a full advanced degree program, get an introduction to a possible career that may interest you, and of course–just to learn something new! Hudson Valley Community College offers a great selection of continuing and community education programs. A few standouts include writing courses (blogging, sharpening freelance writing) and grant writing courses. Some courses are just one night and some are a few sessions. Prices range from $50 to $115, depending on the class and duration.

Schenectady County Community College
Online classes

SCCC has a robust community education program both online and on campus. They offer lots of short online-only classes on many topics in many fields. They offer everything from construction, hospitality, computers, and even courses for those looking to work with animals! The college’s in person offerings are great too, they have a great music program with courses for adults and kids. There are also courses in coding and craft beer brewing and distilling. Classes here range from $35 to $150, depending on length and materials.

SUNY Adirondack

This North Country institution offers an awesome range of courses. Many are online only and can really boost your toolkit. They offer strictly online courses that can apply to many different fields like New & Emerging Supervisors, The Art of Event Planning, SQL Basics, and Bookkeeping. They also offer a bartending course, paralegal training, and many other career- specific options. Courses here range from $35 for quick classes (like Intro to Zoom) and a little higher for more in depth classes i.e. $1,595 for the paralegal course.

Local Libraries

Libraries are a fantastic resource for learning. In addition to books on, well, anything –many of them offer classes in-house, as well as access to other opportunities at a discounted rate. The Albany Public Library offers writing workshops, resume help, and more speciality classes like Screenwriting 101 and poetry classes. The William K. Sanford town library (Colonie) offers classes on digital marketing, gardening, and introduction courses to programs like Excel and Photoshop. The Saratoga Public Library offers English courses, tutorials, and history classes. The best part? More often than not, these offerings are completely free for residents of the city or town the library is in.

Local Cooking Schools 

A building that offers cooking classes

We all have to eat. Why not get better at it? Plenty of people also turn a passion for bread making, cookie frosting, or meat smoking into a side hustle or full time job. 

Different Drummer’s Kitchen
Two employees at Different Drummer's Kitchen in Stuyvesant Plaza
Different Drummer’s Kitchen

This cooking school (within an awesome cookware store in Stuyvesant Plaza) is currently offering masked, socially distant, hands-on cooking classes. They have several classes a week to learn several cuisines from sushi to macarons. On average, the classes are about $70, but some can be a bit more. 

Gio Culinary School, Voorheesville
The inside of Hillsdale General Store
Hillsdale General Store

This school specializes in Italian cuisine and it all sounds amazing. Their offerings range from rainbow cookies to woodfired pizza. They offer couple’s cooking classes, too! They dip into other cuisines like Caribbean and Mexican street food. Classes average $65, and $150 for the couple’s classes. 

Hillsdale General Store

This one’s a little bit of a trip, but worth it for their unique offerings. Upcoming classes include hand pies and Shaker cooking (a great way to learn history, benefit a nonprofit with regional importance, and eat!) The cooking school is an offshoot of the general store, which offers gifts, vintage finds, and old-school candies. Classes are $35, plus materials

Written by: Lauren Mineau

Lauren Mineau is a marketing and communications professional with a passion for highlighting the places, spaces, and people that make upstate New York a great place to be. Her experience in local news, B2B marketing, and higher education, ignited her passion for telling stories of things people are curious about. In her spare time, you can find her searching for the perfect iced coffee, juggling five craft projects at a time, or cracking the perfect pun.