Yesterday I met with Chris Barnard, the director of future technologies at Abraham Darby Academy here in Telford. This is a school which is truly embracing all kinds of technologies – from having their own Twitter account through to using QR codes. As part of this they encourage all students up to year 9 (aged around 13) to take their Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exams and in fact a number of them have gone on to become Microsoft Office Masters.

Seems like a great idea to me, giving these students real life skills and a recognised qualification and  it led me to thinking how many employers and parents there are out there with these qualifications themselves. Are you being outqualifed by these teenagers? The attitude in many places still seems to be that having a qualification in Office is a frivolous luxury – “oh anyone can use Word / Excel etc”. This seems odd to me for two reasons. Firstly many companies put priority into training for their technical IT staff for fear of some error on (for example) the servers jeopardising business safety. Yet your humble spreadsheet has just as much power to cause a significant problem, as discussed in a recent blog post.

Secondly it’s back to the efficiency thing. Yes I know it’s a drum I keep banging but by having the training to understand how to work with the tools most effectively it keeps productivity high and morale too. [Edit – I hadn’t seen Karen’s blog piece on certification earlier this week before I wrote this, but it’s pertinent]

So are you being trounced by these students? Microsoft Office Specialist exams aren’t easy – I’m in the process of taking them myself – but I’d thoroughly recommend investigating them if you’re reliant on Office for your day to day work. Despite being an expert user of Office for a number of years, I’ve found studying for MOS exams forces you to think slightly differently about different applications of some of the tools. A very worthwhile investment, an internationally recognised qualification and – if these 13 year olds are anything to go by – the future.