Springfield, MO

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Trainers report growing computer-class demand

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

More and more companies are opting for computer training outside their own technical staff to bring employees up to snuff with today's software programs, according to Karen True, owner of True Expressions.

True Expressions offers customized training sessions in Office 97, Windows 95, Word Perfect, Quicken, Windows 3.1 and the Internet.

Many businesses are beginning to see the benefits of spending the time and money to provide employees with the basic knowledge they need to use programs effectively, instead of wasting valuable time groping through the maze of options on their own, True said.

True added that she likes to train employees in their own office environment, the setting where they will be using the equipment and where they already feel comfortable.

She begins her service with a needs-assessment session prior to training to determine at what level the trainees are at and what they want to do.

The information helps her tailor the training to the situation.

As software changes, there is an ever growing demand for training in the workplace to keep users up to speed. Most companies use computers in daily operations and many are using the Internet to varying degrees. True expects this trend to continue.

"Businesses will be driven there by competition in the future," she said.

True said she takes a practical, down-to-earth approach when working with people to put them at ease with the information they absorb in the classes. She provides follow up services and telephone support once the training sessions are completed.

True Expressions does not sell software or hardware packages, but will recommend a source on request.

"I usually give them a number of choices among the suppliers with whom I've done business," True said.

Sherry Haney, owner of Pin Oak Computer Training also offers flexible class schedules and on-site training. Haney stated she never cancels a class. If one person signs up, she is willing to take the time to work with that person.

Pin Oak has three-, six- and eight-hour classes, depending on the program involved and competency level of the trainees. Haney said her years of corporate experience gives her an empathy with people she trains.

"I understand their problems and know their frustrations," she said.

Haney also recommends local suppliers and maintains a working relationship with several local vendors. Some of them send her trainees, so it is a two way street, she stated.

The demand for outside computer training is growing, according to Haney.

Businesses have found it is more cost-effective and employees are more at ease when they've gone through training, instead of using an error method of learning.

Pin Oak offers essentially the same courses of study as True Expressions and maintains the same philosophy.

"Make it easier and everyone gains," Haney said.

Increased demand has caused The Computer Institute at Southwest Missouri State University to add 120 classes in the coming year, according to Paul Lines, program coordinator.

The institute experienced a 10 percent increase in demand last year, requiring the department to add an instructor. The institute now has five teachers and four contract instructors.

The Computer Institute works with all the current software programs and any level of proficiency from beginner's basics on up to programming, Lines stated.

Lines said the instructors can go on site at the businesses, but he prefers the classroom setting without the interruptions of the telephone and other daily business routines.

The institute puts out a new schedule of classes every three months, and the people who sign up come from every sector, including individuals, area businesses, large and small, and government entities.

Many times a large company will send the staff in two or three groups over a 60-day period so they aren't all away from the workplace at the same time, Lines said.

As with the other training schools, trainees can learn how to get around in the current software programs or on the Internet, and after the basics are mastered, trainees can learn to make use of customization options provided on some programs.

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