Skills2Work, Refreshing the Digital Skills job seekers need to win in today’s job market

Refreshing the Digital Skills job seekers need to win in today’s job market


A December 2020 article published in AXIOS entitled “How to develop new skills for a post-pandemic America” states that the digitized workforce has arrived much earlier than experts previously thought. Many of us who have been working remotely during the pandemic would agree. To remain productive, we have all become much more reliant on local internet access, smart phones, video conferencing, and an array of apps and computer programs.

Unfortunately, many of today’s job seekers are not fully equipped to succeed in a job market that demands a basic level of computer skills proficiency. According to several of the experts referenced in the article, one of the top three remedies needed is to expand access to the digital skills training and technologies that job seekers need. This provides a foundation upon which they can build to learn more advanced digital skills.

For nearly 40 years, Operation ABLE (OA) has been focused on providing employment and training opportunities to job seekers from economically, racially, and occupationally diverse backgrounds. We offer computer skills training, workshops, job search training, coaching, counseling, and personal support.

One of our core program offerings is the SKILLS2WORK program. ” The 12-week course focuses on improving proficiency in Microsoft Office — MS WORD, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Access. The program prepares jobseekers for administrative careers in such diverse fields as higher education, insurance, finance, government, and transportation. Participants who complete the program move ahead empowered with a set of digital skills needed to help them transition into higher-paying, high growth jobs.

The SKILLS2WORK remote class runs from Monday through Friday (I think saying Monday – Thursday may confuse them), 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, typically with 10 – 15 participants in attendance. Individuals interested in attending SKILLS2WORK, or any of the other Operation ABLE training programs, can learn about them via the INFO SESSION on OA’s website. This overview presentation describes the different OA programs and services offered in more detail.

If an individual expresses interest in joining one of the programs, an important first step is to participate in an online, technical skills assessment with OA staff. This helps to establish a baseline and an understanding of need. One-on-one interviews then follow to learn more about the prospective student’s personal goals and job interests. If accepted, the student is then placed in one of four OA programs: ABLE BEGINNINGS, for baseline computer skills training; SKILLS2WORK, for more comprehensive computer and software skills training; and either of two MEDICAL OFFICE TRAINING options (a 12-week course and an accelerated 8-week course) for focused computer skills training in areas such as medical office administration. Operation ABLE also offers short-term ABLE Refresher Courses for those individuals who only need to update their skills in a specific computer software program.

Marilyn Piket, Program Manager for SKILLS2WORK and OA’s Medical Office Training Program, was initially a SKILLS2WORK class participant. She was working for a local firm in a marketing research role, but outside circumstances led to an organizational restructuring. Over 50 and new to the job market, she knew that she needed to upgrade her computer skills to be successful in her job search. After learning about Operation ABLE, she signed up for SKILLS2WORK and was accepted in November of 2017. Once she completed the course, she was offered a position with Operation ABLE as an Internship Coordinator. In this role, she helped place program graduates into internship positions with ABLE’s employer partners’ network.

As a former program participant in SKILLS2WORK and now Program Manager, Marilyn is one of its most vocal cheerleaders. She has seen the classes’ composition evolve from a focus on participants ages 45+ to a more balanced blend of younger and older job seekers. This has many advantages: the younger students bring new perspectives and a willingness to share and collaborate. The older workers demonstrate a strong work ethic and a genuine commitment to helping each other throughout the program.

In addition to S2W program instruction, every Friday is dedicated to Career Development Day. Students participate in workshops focused on critical job seeker “tools,” such as Linked-In, Applicant Tracking Systems, Soft Skills, interviewing skills, and Cover and Thank you letters. Also, guest speakers representing major staffing agencies and institutions throughout the Boston region attend to provide insight into job openings within their respective organizations, tips on applying for jobs, and feedback on questions. To help students further in their job search, Marilyn also assigns students with resume and job coaches. If needed, a Case Manager can make referrals for help with language, legal, or housing issues that can easily pull students off track.

Due to the need to work remotely for the foreseeable future, Marilyn sees many advantages for signing up for a S2W class. Besides gaining proficiency in highly valued office management software skills, there is the learning gained by becoming familiar with ZOOM videoconferencing and virtual job communications skills. There will likely be many remote job opportunities in the future, so students realize tangible benefits beyond the course training itself. Then, there are the intangible benefits, especially during the pandemic: having a routine — something practical, pragmatic, and personal, to focus on every day. These advantages are captured in this note shared with us by one of our recent S2W graduates:

Hi, my name is Orlena McQueen, and I participated in Operation ABLE’s Skills2Work Class.

I was drawn to Operation ABLE because my Microsoft Office Skills were out of date. The last class I had taken was in Lotus, a precursor to Excel, back in 1990. Everything I learned since then was self-taught.

When I walked through the door of Operation ABLE, I knew I came to the right place. Everyone there made me feel like a somebody. The staff would smile and take the time to talk to me and really get to know me. They also helped me gain access to the services I needed to remain in class and concentrate on my studies.

My instructor has a very strongly structured curriculum, which was especially important when we transitioned from onsite learning to remote learning because of the crisis.

I was sure that learning from home would present a challenge to me, but my instructor has been very consistent. She makes sure that each of us is heard and makes everything she teaches plain and clear.

Because of my new, increased proficiency in Microsoft Office, I was recently offered a job with a grassroots organization called New England United for Justice.

Thank you, Operation ABLE!

Click here for more information on the Skills2Work Program or Operation ABLE’s other training programs.