Employers seek people with various computer skills

By Linda Luk

Computer skills are essential for people entering the work force in this age of information technology.

Many people know that employers look for communication skills and previous experience when hiring. What some people don’t know is that employers also look for computer skills as part of the total package.

According to the Career Planning and Placement Center, the total package employers seek in candidates includes communication skills, leadership, teamwork, interpersonal abilities, personal traits and computer/technical aptitude.

“We live in an informational age and students should know how to access the information that is available,” said Alan Farber, an assistant director of the Career Planning and Placement Center. “But students should not lose sight of the other skills. They need to strike a balance.”

Computer skills students should have knowledge of before entering the work force include word processing software, like the Microsoft Office series, which consists of Excel, Word and Power Point. Students also should be familiar with the Internet.

“I think computer skills are important,” Farber said. “We still have seniors who don’t know how to use e-mail and send an attachment.”

Computer skills are not only useful in obtaining a job, but also are helpful with the job search. Even when using Victor eRecruiting, the CPPC online student job tool, computer skills are necessary.

“You will need Internet skills to be able to use the Web browser,” said Mireya Pourchot, a promotion and publicity specialist of the cooperative education/internship program office. “These skills are pretty important because you can research companies online.”

Knowing how to use the Internet allows students to use an electronic job search, post their resumes online, send inquiry e-mails and possibly even develop personal home pages, which are advantageous in the job market.

“Home pages are free and are managed for free,” Farber said. “It is a potential to communicate with employers and to demonstrate you are comfortable with using a Web editor.”

Computer skills can be learned through books, experience and classes.

“Many people don’t take advantage of the free computer classes the university offers,” Farber said.

NIU Information Technology Services offers a series of free, non-credit short classes mainly for faculty and staff, but also some that are open to students.

“The classes are primarily for staff and faculty because our job is to assist with the training on campus,” said Larry Vint, team leader technical analyst for the Information Technology Services Customer Support Center. “Students have the option to take it. We do allow students to sit in.”

The classes ITS offers include computing basics, MS Excel 2000, MS Word and MS PowerPoint, among many others.

“Microsoft’s productivity series all contain tools that will make it more effective in communication in the working environment,” Vint said. “These technologies are tools that are

increasingly adopted and are in many of the businesses.”

These classes are offered throughout the semester. Course content and enrollment information is available at Swen Parson Hall, Room 120 and at ITS’s Web site. Courses tend to be three hours long and several of them are two days long.

“Computer skills don’t guarantee a job, but they’re going to be an advantage,” Farber said. “Even though it may not apply to their job, it is useful in their personal life.”