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County to certify computer skills of 168 employees during 2010?

Published 8:05am Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dowagiac Daily News

CASSOPOLIS – A study committee recommendation for an IC3 training program to certify the computer skills of Cass County’s 168 employees in 2010 came before the Board of Commissioners Thursday night.

Goal of the training is to improve employees’ technical skills.

IC3 is an acronym for Internet and Computing Core Certification.

As a basic core competency certification, it is not intended to turn out computer professionals.

Training consists of three modules, computing fundamentals, key applications and living online.

On average, each module takes five weeks to complete.

Someone coming in with no experience is allotted 15 weeks.

Benefits of the training will insure that all employees have a basic knowledge of computer fundamentals, key software applications, electronic mail and Internet use, essentially establishing a level of expected skills for existing and potential new employees.

This will give the employee the ability to be more efficient and knowledgeable and also provides county employers a way of measuring the level of technical skills of potential new employees.

Southwestern Michigan College already launched this initiative. SMC requires all faculty and staff to be certified.

Any student pursuing a degree must also be certified by the completion of their degree.

“How we adopt and adapt to challenging technologies will define how successful we are and how others perceive our organization,” county Information Systems Director Kerry Collins informed the Board of Commissioners Oct. 15. “We want to gather feedback from each of you on how best to implement this. We would like to make a formal presentation or recommendation at a future Board of Commissioners meeting. We have already met with elected officials on two different occasions. We are planning on meeting with the union presidents and sheriff’s office (this) week for their input, guidance and advice to implement it for their departments as well. We created a study committee whose members include Prosecutor Victor Fitz, County Treasurer Linda Irwin, Undersheriff Richard Behnke, Donna Dodd, Joni Patzer, Roland Fancher, Carla Murray and myself. The committee agrees this is something that will benefit each of our employees and will benefit and assist our employers when hiring new employees.”
Nodding at the audience, Collins, who has been with the county for 16 years, added, “Undersheriff Behnke is here. He actually completed his first exam (Oct. 14). He’s ready to take his second exam (Oct. 16).

‘We need to be certified because technology is constantly changing. IC3 certification provides our employees with the basic building blocks to continue to develop their technical skills. If we as an organization don’t keep up, we’re going to be left behind and miss out on some of the efficiency opportunities that often come with new technology and the intent of streamlining your operation and make things easier by faster access to information.

“Our Clerk-Register (Barb Runyon) is here tonight. Her information is now online, which wasn’t available when she came on board. People had to physically come to our building for access. Putting that technology in place required hardware, software and, importantly, people skills to continue to develop it and to maintain it.

“We spend a lot of time and money training employees for their specific jobs,” such as police officers on how to handle domestic abuse cases or court employees on how to interpret new legislation.

“IC3 training is very specific to general technology use and is something we have not done in the county,” Collins said. “It is being considered a standard in many organizations. In today’s digital world, I’m not sure I can think of very many jobs that don’t require some sort of basic technology use – especially in Cass County, from setting temperatures at the Law and Courts Building through an electronic centralized computer interface. The days of thermostats are gone. Understanding e-mail and attachments is not going away. We are not adding employees every year, we’re looking at accomplishing that with the tools we have.”

Training will take place in a number of locations and formats:

• An employee could have a training compact disc to use voluntarily and without pay on his/her computer at home.

• An employee could access training online from their home computer, their work computer or the lab.

• An employee could access training on a computer in the E-911 Central Dispatch facility 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

• An employee could go to a facilitated computer lab session at the E-911 Central Dispatch facility.

This would be available Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. Facilitators would be IC-3 certified instructors.

• An employee could be directed to a formal class at SMC if the budget permits.
Deputy Information Systems Director Carla Murray of Dowagiac will oversee the project.

She will make progress reports on each employee to elected officials, department heads and judges each month.

All employees would be accountable to their elected official, department head or judge to become certified before Dec. 31, 2010.

IC3 certification would be added to each employee’s performance review as conducted by the elected officials, department heads and judges.

“What’s going to happen to the people who can’t make it?” wondered Commissioner Minnie Warren, D-Pokagon Township. “If they cannot succeed in a year, even though they’ve been here 10 years.”

“We’re going to give as many opportunities as we can to them to succeed,” Collins replied, “by taking the time and working with them – one-on-one, if needed. If not, it will really be up to their employer on how they want to proceed.”

County Administrator Terry Proctor added, “Because it is basic, we believe all 168 will be able to succeed. If an employee in one of the offices who just has not been able to succeed, we will sit down with that elected official or department head and discuss what might be done to help that person complete this certification because without the certification, which reflects the knowledge, they’re not going to be able to do their county job. We have not been able to identify a county job for any of those 168 people to be successful without this basic level of knowledge.”

Commissioner Bill Steele, D-Calvin Township, expressed a desire to pursue certification.
“Some of us are very behind and I feel like I can’t outrun it. I thought I could, but I’m running too slow.”

Vice Chairman Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, asked how IC3 compares with students coming out of high school.

Collins said Ross Beatty High School requires it, as does Wayne State University in Detroit for graduate students.

“Generations now were born into the digital age. A lot of this is natural to potential employees,” Collins said.

“If we go forward with this,” Proctor said, “we’re talking about a $30,000 program just for those 168 because online access is so much per person, plus we have to buy laptop computers for the training center. We’ll come to you with a budget proposal at a future meeting.”

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  • Andon

    This is a good move by the county. Kerry Collins is right: there are very few jobs that don’t require some sort of basic technology use. I work for a company that represents Certiport, which administers these tests, and have seen the market grow out of necessity. The more employees understand the skills taught in the exam, the better they will do in their job, almost regardless of their industry.

    Certiport’s Web site has more information about the certification, as well.

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