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Graduates will need to use all their skill sets

June 2, 2008

by Mark Ollig

On May 16 my youngest son graduated from St. Cloud Technical College.

He was fortunate to find employment and today he officially joins the workforce.

Uncle Sam must be smiling as he gets to add a new taxpayer to the list.

While I was seated during my son’s graduation ceremony, I sensed an air of excitement and observed the expressions of joy, relief and satisfaction on the graduates’ faces’.

There was one other emotion I sensed as well – apprehension.

Some of the speakers candidly talked about the current downturn in the economy and how this has affected the number of jobs available. The message had a very sobering effect.

The graduates and those in attendance listened intently as each spokesperson talked.

The last spokeswoman closed her remarks by re-affirming her confidence in each of the graduates.

She stressed how each graduate had the potential to succeed . . . they would be offering their unique individual talents, abilities and newly acquired skill sets to future employers.

This seemed to relieve much of the apprehension; the graduates now presented a look of determination and optimism.

If someone today asked me what basic skill sets are needed in the industry I have spent the better part of thirty years in, namely the telecommunications industry, the first one might surprise you.

I would start out with the basic of basic computer skills called “keyboarding” . . . no snickering please!

Proficient data entry saves time and most importantly, reduces frustrations on the part of the person doing the keyboarding.

Today, every profession requires some keyboarding of information.

My work requires much keyboarding during the course of the day, whether it’s entering configuration information, executing troubleshooting commands or sending off interoffice e-mails.

Those still in or out of school can update their keyboarding skills using a variety of educational self-tutoring software guides available online or in a store.

Online there is a fun (and free) keyboarding tutorial I tested called “Good Typing.”

It can be found at http://www.goodtyping.com.

You don’t need to register to try it. Just click on the “try it without registering” link.

What if you want to talk to your computer?

If you’re using Microsoft Windows with the Vista operating system and want to give the speech-to-text program a try, here are some steps to follow.

First, the microphone used should be attached to a noise-canceling headset. This will filter out the unwanted background noise.

Plug the headset in.

Click “Start” and then click “Control Panel.”

Double-click “Speech Recognition.”

You’ll see several options. Click “Start Speech Recognition.” A “wizard” will walk you through the rest of the setup.

First, it will request information about the microphone. Then it will ask you to read a sentence. This allows Vista to set the volume input levels.

When the microphone volume is correct, run the “Speech Tutorial.” This will teach you the most common speech recognition commands.

My son uses Vista speech-to-text, and he appreciates the way it automatically provides for the proper grammar when using the Microsoft Word program.

He told me the speech program is “fully integrated” into his computer which allows him to use speech commands to open all his other software applications.

Number three son regularly uses the Windows Vista speech program on his computer and told me he can’t imagine not having it.

Telecommunications technologies for next-generation networks are using packet-based Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP). I want to mention Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) also, as most telecommunications over an IP based network are using this signaling arrangement.

Many computer job requirements include the first level of Cisco certifications called CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). This is a certification anyone starting out in the computer networking field should obtain.

Telecommunications using IP networking requires an understanding of how network protocol analyzing software tools operate. This is needed in order to resolve various protocol messaging conflicts.

Thirty years ago I climbed telephone poles, worked with copper wires, and electro-mechanical analog switching systems.

Ten years later we had “stored program control” using computerized digital switching and time-division-multiplexing. I still climbed a few telephone poles, too.

Today we have intelligently controlled “soft-switches” communicating with data packets of information utilizing IP techniques over Synchronized Optical Networks (SONET) and fiber optic rings. Optical IP switching using terabit IP routers is not far off.

We still use a keyboard, too.

I can only imagine what the next generation of telecom technology will be. Oh, yes, it’s when the communicator is implanted into our brain and we hold the conversations in our heads.

Just kidding . . . I think.

Let’s not forget one of the most important skill sets used in any job . . . people skills.

How we communicate with customers, employers, and other employees requires as much importance in our job as does the technical skills.

The learning never ends, as your humble columnist can firmly attest to.