In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in a global recession. People are losing their jobs left and right due to cut backs and companies folding. These are often skilled people who would be an asset to any company who could afford to have them on staff. Although it upsets me that these people are losing their jobs, what is starting to get me more and more riled up is the number of people in jobs that they don’t have the skills or competency level to do as effectively as someone else who is potentially out of work. People in office jobs that require them to use a computer every single day often have computer literacy levels FAR below what should be required.
I work in IT support. I see it every day. Other people I know in IT support see it too, some to a worse degree than me. I know people who have more than adequate IT skills who are either out of work or stuck in a job far below their station. But who is to blame? Well it’s not the computer illiterate, oh no. I accept that some people will never be able to use a computer. I suck at sports. I always have and I always will. It’s the companies that are to blame here. So many companies only consider computer literacy as an afterthought when hiring new staff which begs the question; if they had run some kind of computer literacy test prior to hiring people how much more productive would the staff and, in turn, the company be? I would wager a noticeable amount.
There needs to be some sort of international standard computer literacy test that companies can use to test potential employees. I’m not talking about difficult stuff here. I mean the basics. It wouldn’t be a hard thing to impliment either. At the time of the second interview your applicant would sit down at a computer and carry out a series of pre-determined tasks under the watchful eye of a manager and perhaps, if the company can spare them, a member of the IT department. Of course the manager of the potential employee’s department would be able to make the final call but the information provided by the test and the official opinion of the IT department would give a vital insight into the person’s potential productivity.
Test tasks could be as simple as the following:
- Correctly start up, log on to and shut down the computer.
- Copy and paste a file into a pre-determined folder. Repeat with multiple files.
- Re-name a file in a pre-determined folder.
- Minimise, maximise and re-size a window.
- Save a document from a Microsoft Office application into a pre-determined folder and Save another copy with a different name somewhere else. (Demonstrating an understanding of “Save” and “Save as…” )
- Print a Microsoft Office document to a pre-determined printer (may or may not be the default printer).
- Send an e-mail with an attachment.
- Open a web browser and navigate to a pre-determined website.
- Copy and paste text into a document or e-mail.
- Switch between open applications.
- Connect to a wireless network (if this will be a common task in the applicant’s role, i.e if they are going to be a mobile/laptop user)
- Identify a USB port.
It should take no longer than 10 minutes to run through that test but the insight it will provide will be invaluable. All the tasks in that list are things the average 12 year old would be able to do without much of a problem and they can be applied to either PC or Mac. It’s very much a win/win scenario. People with good IT skills will be able to get the jobs they deserve and companies will get efficient, productive staff. Changes or advances in the IT infrastructure would be a lot less painful and would take less time. IT departments would be free to concentrate on their core responsibilities rather than endure hours of hand-holding.