By Susan Fenner, Ph.D.
“According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, office and administrative positions are projected to have 7.4 million total job openings between 2010 and 2020, the largest number among the 24 occupational groups it tracks.” This is the lead-in to the 2014 Salary Guide published by OfficeTeam. The annual Guide began in 1996 and continues to provide vital information on starting pay, salary ranges, and hiring practices for more than 60 administrative positions in the U.S. and Canada.
OfficeTeam found that employers are looking for workers who:
- Are familiar with the industry and can hit the ground running.
- Are self-starters and can collaborate with others to get the job done.
- Are tech savvy, especially with Microsoft Office applications and social media.
- Have excellent communication skills – verbally and in writing – for sharing information with co-workers, higher ups, customers, and business partners.
- Have a positive attitude and can make things happen.
But more than half of the HR managers surveyed said they are having difficulty finding qualified candidates. Where’s the disconnect?
Businesses must create job descriptions that fit the times, but also prepare individuals for future roles. They need to identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities that an ideal candidate would bring to the job and not be afraid to set standards high. They ought to do pre-testing to verify the actual skills candidates possess. As the job evolves, they need to provide training to make up for any skill gaps. Companies that invest in their human capital will be the leaders of tomorrow.
Resources for helping you find and train the most qualified candidates:
- OPAC Office Skills Testing: pre-employment testing for employers
- OPAC Office Skills Certification: administrative and clerical skills certification for the business education classroom
- Need help creating an accurate job description? Conduct a job analysis.
Schools must interact with business and prepare students for the new workplace. Curriculum has to be geared toward future jobs, not ones of the past. Students need to assess careers based on personal values – realistic prospects for obtaining employment; salary potential; good match with talents and passions; advancement possibilities; continuing education, licensing, or certification requirements; time and money invested in education. Graduating students need to complete valid and relevant tests to prove that they have the skills they need. And, the process of updating or changing curricula must be streamlined for a quicker response to changing times.
Students and job candidates need to get as much job experience as they can. This includes summer or part-time jobs, internships, or other workplace exposure. They must do their homework on the industries and companies where they are applying. They should supplement good grades with extracurricular involvement – volunteer work, school activities, leadership positions, competitive events, community outreach. Employers want workers that have the know-how and the ability to relate well with others and take initiative.
The outlook for administrative programs and employment for graduates look good. New jobs are being created and positions that were eliminated are coming back, although with new requirements. Business is willing to work with education to tailor programs to today’s new workplace; salaries have risen and are now attracting attention. According to the 2014 Salary Guide, it’s a good time to establish and promote administrative programs and certification.
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.