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Business, Society - Written by on Thursday, November 12, 2009 8:32 - 8 Comments

Laura M.  Carrillo
What’s the Curriculum to Build Technology Skills?

We all know that the younger generations are known for their technology savvy, however I think we sometimes forget that there are still significant parts of that population that lack even basic computer skills. Next week I am presenting to the Massachusetts Association of Cooperative Coordinators. These professionals focus on placing High School students in internships, helping them develop work/life skills designed to help them succeed after graduation whether they enter the workforce or college. The group is interested in learning more about specific technology skills students need to have in order to be successful in the workplace. This includes everything from desktop applications to social networking. Below are some of my thoughts, but I’m wondering, what am I missing? If you could do it over knowing what you know now, what skills would you have focused on more?

Desktop Applications

Students should know the basics of applications like Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. While there are other options out there, like some of the collaborative apps that Google offers, the MS Office applications are still the most popular. In many companies they don’t even ask about desktop applications knowledge anymore, proficiency is assumed.

Internet Browsing

I know that it is second nature to those of us that work online for a living, however, there are still a lot of students that cannot find their way around the Internet. Being able to search for ideas and answers online is not only a great skill to have, but a way to be a more efficient and productive employee. What are the basics of searching, bookmarking, sharing (del.i.cio.us, Digg)? Do students know why and how to source and acknowledge materials they find and use?

Social Networking

This one can get tricky. I know many High School students that already have profiles on MySpace and/or Facebook to connect with their friends. The education that students need around use of these type of tools is less about “how you do it” and more about privacy. Students need to be aware that recruiters (professional and college) will review any online profiles or information on applicants; a recent CIO Insight poll found that 45% of hiring managers use social networking sites to research candidates. Students need to assume that every post, picture and tag associated with them can be found. Awareness may be growing: Recent research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that 60% of adults and 66% of teens restrict access to their personal profiles on online. While restricting access to profiles is one security measure, students should also be aware of what anyone in their ecosystem is saying or tagging about them. We’ve already seen stories of individuals loosing out on opportunities because of inappropriate photos their friends posted and tagged online.

Written Communication

As social media tools evolve and we see more options arise, the written word becomes more and more important. This means that language skills, especially written skills, need to be stressed. It does not matter how brilliant you are, if your memos or posts have major spelling and grammar issues, those will greatly detract from good content. I know that there is a new vernacular that goes along with many of the new technologies; however the majority of the workforce is still made up of professionals who rely on standard English for business interaction.

Mobile Applications

Yes, many students have cell phones and know how to text but do they know how to use email online? Do they know NOT to use Twitter and IM acronyms, slang and shorthand when talking professionally? This is another area where protocol needs to be addressed.

So, what technology skills do you look for in an intern or a new hire? If you were talking to a group of High School students what advice would you give them regarding learning and using technology? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and will keep you posted on feedback I get from the MACC group and the student population that they serve.


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Douglas Paul Ambort
Nov 12, 2009 15:39

I would augment your list of skills with the following (ideas for a high school IT curriculum, prepared by me for York School, Monterey CA, 2008.)

A visual representation (mind map) of this is available at http://ambort.net/ITcurric.pdf.

These are the skills and capacities I would want new hires to have.

Applications Proficiency
Content Re-purposing
Data Management
Planning, Analysis, and Design
Problem Solving, Troubleshooting
Collaboration Teamwork, Team Leadership

Tools and Technologies for Team Collaboration
Socio-Political Issues of IT
Overview of Computer Systems Applications
Systems Planning and Analysis
Practical Knowledge Management

Communications Best Practices
Computer Technologies and Applications for Art, Photography, and Graphic Design
Computer Technologies and Applications for Music and Audio / Visual Production
Creative Thinking Skills for Electronic Media
Essential Software Applications Proficiency
Mixing it Up – Compatibility Issues Across Applications and Operating Systems
Online Research Techniques
Software Applications and the Art of Persuasion
Content Strategy and Web Design

giulio quaggiotto
Nov 12, 2009 17:48

Hi Laura,

Some time ago I posted some ideas (bit.ly/aLBpi) on this topic, trying to anticipate the skills that will be required of those who are interested in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector. Perhaps you might find some pointers in there.



Laura Carrillo
Nov 13, 2009 8:30

Giulio – Thank you for the ideas! Douglas – That is quite a list! For this group we’re looking at students who are going out to work in internships that are not necessarily in IT related jobs. But it is amazing to see what the options are at the York School.

Laura Carrillo
Nov 13, 2009 8:33

I forgot to mention that these internships are for public school students, some do not have access to computers outside of the school setting. I often think that those of us who work online 24/7 forget a bit about this group.

Nov 19, 2009 17:59

basic troubleshooting.
- why is the printer not working, setting up a wireless network

- grammer, syntax and spelling and online tools available to research correct usage of the same

- installing new programs, clearing old ones, browser security,

- basic understanding of flow-charts when designing a process, knowledge of bandwidth, wiki’s – specifically as to how they function

Nov 20, 2009 20:57

Hi Laura,

This past summer, I’ve had a first year Ryerson intern working for me at my company. He was a very nice smart young man, and his skill in Excel was phenomenal, which really helped me.

To your list I would add Enterprise collaboration portals such as Sharepoint.

Another thing that young people don’t see to be accustom to is file structure. They use search to find what they want, but when creating documents, they may need to learn that how to organize files, whether it’s in a portal or just in a shared network drive.

Last point is that our only challenge over the summer was his communication skills. They need to know how to write business e-mails.


Laura Carrillo
Nov 23, 2009 12:09

Great points, thank you Natasha. When I spoke with the group last week, communication and the “soft skills” of business definitely surfaced as lacking but crucial as students move to the workplace.

reads from this week « the way i see things
Nov 29, 2009 19:21

[...] needed: a curriculum for building technology skills – (via Laura M. Carillo, Wikinomics) – she’s right. confession: i graduated in 2006 and barely knew how to use excel… [...]

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