You can often find articles discussing a skills gap in today’s workforce. What this means varies, depending on the source, the profession and the skills being addressed. Different industries have different needs, as do workers in different stages of their professional lives. It’s not easy to address them all.

My colleague, Pam Wright, wrote in a past issue about the need for soft skills training – those crucial customer service and collaborative skills that are relevant to all industries. These remain as important as ever, but businesses are also looking for something else that has an impact on day-to-day operations and future success: computer skills.

At first, this seems like a no-brainer. Of course, computer skills are important. It’s 2017 – technology is everywhere. Everyone has a smartphone, tablet or other device. Even with so much technology in our lives, those everyday interactions don’t always translate to the workplace.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2012 that more than half of jobs required some kind of technology skills. By 2020, that number is forecast to reach 77 percent. That means in less than three years three out of four jobs in this country will require some level of computer proficiency.

Microsoft Office skills are some of the most in-demand skills. Competency in Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook are desirable skills among new hires and can be pivotal for current employees to advance. A recent survey by global research firm IDC found entry-level employees in high-growth industries who hold Microsoft certifications can earn up to $16,000 more annually. In a survey of hiring managers, Microsoft found 91 percent included Microsoft Office Specialist certification in their hiring criteria.

It’s impossible to talk about technology without also addressing information technology professionals. As technology and computer skills become more important in the workplace, so do the people who manage network security, hardware and maintenance.

CompTIA A+ certification is recognized worldwide as one of the best ways for entry-level employees to gain valuable IT knowledge. CompTIA A+ is vendor neutral, which means you gain skills to work across platforms, including Windows, Android, iOS, Linux and A+. Hawkeye Community College has created a new IT certificate program to prepare you for CompTIA A+ certification. This course meets twice weekly from September to December, covering IT fundamentals, customer service and CompTIA A+.

For those interested in earning their Microsoft Office certification, Hawkeye offers a new Microsoft Office Specialist Certificate in July and September. The 48-hour class prepares you to become certified in the most common software tool in the world.

Both programs were created with an understanding of current workforce needs and an eye on future demands. Computer skills, IT skills, and technology in general will continue to be a major factor in our economy. Certification shows employers you not only have the training to meet their needs, but you have demonstrated the skills to put that training into action.

For more information about these certification programs, call (319) 296-4290 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/workplace-certifications.

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Christi Mason is community education manager for Hawkeye Community College Business and Community Education.

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