Students compete in Microsoft Office category at Toronto Board’s Tech Skills Competition

April 2, 2012 | By Sheena |
If you want to work in tech or business, it’s pretty much essential that you know how to use Microsoft Office - even at a basic level.  That’s why the Toronto District School Board’s Technological Skills Competition dedicates an entire category to IT Office Software Applications. The annual competition held earlier this month is part of Skills Canada - Ontario’s mandate to promote careers in trades and technology. Students were tested on their Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access skills.

The competition has been giving students gold medal bragging rights  for two decades. This year, more than 400 students competed for gold, bronze and silver medals in 32 different categories from fashion to robotics to video production. Winners from each category will move on to the Ontario finals later this spring and the winners from that competition will then move on to the national finals in Edmonton.

The IT Office Software Applications competition was held at David and Mary Thomson Collegiate in Toronto on March 7. Microsoft’s Noureen Syed was brought on as a judge. She’s one of our CareerMash Role Models so we asked her to tell us about the experience and why these technological skills are so important.

How was the competition for you?

It was great to see first-hand how young minds think differently. It reminded me why it is so important for organizations to keep making investments in hiring young talent.

How did you build your technological skills when you were in high school?

I took some typical computer courses and was lucky in attending Gordon Graydon Memorial Secondary School’s International Business and Technology Program (IBTP). As part of the program, we did a lot of presentations/business leadership activities and this is where I gained most of my soft/hard technical skills.

How have these skills helped you in your career?

Understanding technology, and using it to be productive, is a career given. I would say these skills are as important as breathing!

Why do you think it’s important for teens to have these skills?

Technical software skills are important because most jobs today use computers for productivity and automation, with the common goal to be more agile, productive, cost-efficient, or to gain competitive advantage. As kids get into their own careers, or own a business, these skills can help distinguish them in their own fields whether they are  computer technology focused or not.

What kind of career doors do these skills open?

Everything - for the reasons above. This is certainly not limited to IT careers. The understanding and ability to work with productivity software is essential for people in all sorts of roles - doctors, teachers, engineers, sales, business owners - you name it.

Did any students stand out in the IT Office Software Applications competition? What was it about them that made them shine?

A lot of them stood out for showing the tenacity to succeed and be creative in their solutions.

Do you have any career tips or recommendations for high school students?

Not to sound like a cliché, but there are no limits. Pursue whatever you are interested in with persistence. Find a workplace that offers a peek into your dream job and approach them for volunteer positions, internships or employment. You are never too young. While technical skills are super important, so are soft skills.

Here are some tips:

  • It’s important to work hard and also have the ability to evaluate and showcase the value of what you are working on - ultimately it must be of some value to someone for it to “sell.”
  • Network! Talk to family, friends, parents, teachers or business owners to explore and learn about potential opportunities.
  • Be conscious of your digital footprint - especially on social media. You can also use it to establish your brand or image for future employers and volunteer opportunities.
  • Dress for success and the role you want at an organization.