By Susan Fenner, Ph.D.
If you want to track down the number of lawsuits filed within the past year against businesses and educational institutions, good luck. There are so many of them, you could scroll through page after page on Google and still not find a total number. But, the point is made – each year more organizations are being held accountable for things they did and didn’t do. Sexual harassment, discrimination, breach of personal data, workplace violence, ADA/FMLA/ACA/DOMA/OSHA, product liability, and more. One suit affecting educators is graduating students when they don’t have the skills they are purported to have and/or can’t get jobs.
In today’s crazy marketplace, there are more job seekers than openings, more demands on skills and qualities from employers, and less taking of an applicant’s word on proficiencies listed on a résumé. So, what’s the answer? One answer used by many institutions is certification. And many use the Office and Proficiency Assessment Certification (OPAC).
Certification is demonstrated proof that a student is exiting a program with identified skills as measured by an assessment that is valid, reliable, and verifies to an employer that a student has all the proficiencies needed for a job. Why is this a win/win/win?
Schools are winners because they have solid proof that their programs do what they say they will do – graduate students with the skills employers say they want, as shown by independent test scores. There’s no “Yeah, I can ‘do’ Word and Excel and Access.” Applicants will have a certification that outlines all the functions they have mastered.
Employers will know they can rely on that institution for qualified candidates who meet established criteria for entry-level positions. No more guessing. They know the skills these workers bring to the job. Candidates will have computer, reading and writing, financial, business functions, data entry, customer service, and other soft skills for today’s workplace. Most companies are no longer are posting jobs for data-entry or bookkeeping; they want someone who can do it all. They want employees with technology and people skills, employees who can cross-function and do it all. These are the employees with recognizable talents who can be groomed for more responsibilities and promotions.
Students are definitely winners because they get what they paid and worked for – the skills to get them a good-paying job that matches their interests and abilities, with opportunities for advancement. When all else is equal, which candidate do you think will be offered the job – the one with words on a résumé or the one with a certification? Hands down, certification trumps a candidate’s say-so.
And back to lawsuits… As they pile up more each year, you will be putting your institution in an unassailable position and putting your reputation and results on the line. There will be no question that you produce successful, employment-ready students who can easily compete with others. You have proven winners to show employers. The only Google pages you will appear on will be “excellent business programs.”
About the Author
Susan Fenner, Ph.D. has made a career out of following workplace and workforce trends. For more than 25 years, she was the Manager of Education and Professional Development for the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and now serves as the Chief Learning Architect for Speakers You Need (SyN), a consortium of subject-matter experts who provide training to organizations. She was the Admin Support Advisor on Monster, and had columns in Office Solutions and OfficePro magazines. She was also the General Editor for The Complete Office Handbook. Susan has worked with business educators and corporations to prepare office professionals to excel in their roles. She has also worked with educators to develop a business/administrative curriculum used throughout the U.S. and Canada.