Computer Skills That Are Necessary in the Workplace

Bradley Olufs's picture

You may have heard that a world-famous Jamaican runner set a few records during the 2012 Olympic Games. One of them wasn’t even done on the track: He garnered over 80,000 Tweets per minute after he broke the Olympic record for the 200 meter dash… which he had already owned. Now that’s a productive day.

Even if you don’t use Twitter, you are probably aware of what it is, or at least know that it’s “a big thing nowadays.” Pop culture has formed a happy symbiosis with it, as it has with Twitter’s social media cohort, Facebook. Don’t be surprised if some of your students own expensive phones for the sole purpose of texting and posting – but don’t own a computer.

That’s all well and good, but what does that mean for the workplace? Isn’t social media used for socializing? Or does it also have a place at the office?

Let’s back up a minute and ask a larger question about technological literacy: What computer skills do you need to operate effectively at work? For those who may be entering college or the workforce, what are the basics they will need to perform and prosper?

Keyboarding
Typing is a very handy skill, as it’s very likely a computer keyboard will need to be used at some point. Make sure students are comfortable with the keyboard, including the number pad and function keys.

Also, a computer mouse is very commonplace, but fortunately it is easy to use. Given that the average computer has a fairly simple interface, a little bit of practice with both the keyboard and mouse should afford a high comfort level.

Microsoft Software
In part, we can answer that question with a different one: Why does Microsoft consistently dominate technology news? The answer: the popularity of their software. Even if your students don’t use them in your program, chances are they will eventually need to learn them.

Excel (for data spreadsheets), Outlook (for email) and Word (for writing/word processing) are the primary Office components, and you’ll need to teach them if you don’t already. PowerPoint is also very popular for some careers. Be sure to get your students comfortable with this type of software, as it’s not going away anytime soon.

Email and the Internet
Let’s move on to that information superhighway called the Internet and its most common uses: email and the World Wide Web. There are literally billions of email accounts in existence, and that number is growing. Sending messages electronically in general is an assumed skill these days. Text, e-chat or email, it’s all about sending information instantly to another party. Your students should understand the concepts of writing, replying to (and replying to all) and forwarding emails, as well as how attachments and links work.

And now, the true goliath of the virtual world, the Web. So how does one get onto it and use it? There are many commonly used software applications for surfing the web. Browsing can be done quickly and easily with Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera, just to name a few. The good news is that they are all free. Your students should get to experience several different browsers to get a feel for how they work. Make sure they understand:

  1. What a URL is
  2. How to click on links
  3. How to use a search engine such as Google or Bing
  4. What popups are
  5. How to recognize and avoid potentially harmful links

Though Internet workplace usage is not universal, it can be a good informational resource. Have no doubts, however: there is a lot of false and misleading information out there, so always teach your students to consider the source. Websites for reputable newspapers and magazines are a good place to start, and can also be used in your lesson plans.

The bottom line is that the average computer user should know how to open, create, and send files using Windows, Office, email, and the Internet. Sure, they may wind up using a different operating system or productivity suite, but just consider that experience a bonus for their resume. If anyone needs instruction on any of these applications, they should look to their local library or community college for any available classes. 

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