Although Lakisha Wilson's first experience at college was not great, she gave higher education a second try at Paul D. Camp Community College (PDCCC) in Franklin, VA, to study administrative-support technology. As part of her coursework, she earned Microsoft® Office Specialist certification, the official worldwide certification for the Microsoft Office system of business-productivity programs. Her qualifications led to two exciting part-time employment opportunities and future career options she hadn't previously considered. She currently works at the college's computer lab and as a technology assistant at Southampton Academy, a private school in Courtland, VA. As she prepares to graduate this spring, opportunities abound: Wilson may even attend a four-year college to obtain a bachelor's degree in technology education this fall.
Wilson enrolled at PDCCC to work on a certificate program in clerical studies three years ago. Soon she realized she could earn an additional certificate in office-information processing with just seven more credits. And with just one additional class, she was eligible to participate in a career-studies program in word-processing technology.
With these accomplishments under her belt, Wilson became more motivated and confident. After earning her certificates, she returned to school to study administrative-support technology and work toward an associate’s degree in applied science. “My confidence was growing, and my grades were good,” Wilson recalled. “I surprised myself every time I earned a certificate. I had been so doubtful starting out, but when I earned all As and a 4.0 GPA the first semester, I thought, ‘I can do this!’”
At the conclusion of the word-processing class, Wilson took the Microsoft Office Specialist Word exam. Because she had finished with an A in the class, Wilson qualified to have the school pay for the exam; she was both nervous and excited.
“I hadn’t heard of Microsoft Office Specialist before, but I knew it would be something to put on a résumé that would make me more marketable and help me get a job. I decided to try it. I took the exam, and I passed.”
Thus began a series of Office Specialist exam triumphs. “I decided I definitely wanted more certifications,” she said. “It’s really cool that the school provides these exams and makes them available to students who really want to move forward and show their skills. They get my thanks.”
Renee Felts, associate professor of information systems technology at PDCCC and Wilson’s advanced computer-literacy instructor, said certification is available because it proves a student has done more than just take a course. “It’s something on paper that says you’ve met a set of standards,” she said. “It shows you’ve obtained standards and have mastery knowledge.”
Wilson believes Felts was particularly interested in her success. “It’s really nice to have people believe in you,” she said. “I feel like Mrs. Felts invested in my success.” At the conclusion of the course, the college paid for two more Office Specialist exams. Wilson was confident going into the PowerPoint® exam and passed easily.
“I was more nervous going into my Excel exam two days later,” she said. “But I felt myself gain confidence as the exam went on.” She ended up with a perfect score.
Frank Brown, a Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor and exam administrator at PDCCC, remembers Wilson’s Excel exam well. “We saw her score, and I looked at her and said, ‘Where did you get so smart?’” he recalled. “Then we went nuts. We even put an article in the newspaper about her.”
The article was published last fall. “My family saw it and passed it around at our Labor Day picnic,” Wilson said. “Everywhere I went, people recognized me!”
Wilson has been a lab assistant at the PDCCC computer lab for two years. “For a student, this has been a great opportunity,” she said. “I love dealing with other students. Some of them are straight out of high school; others are older students with work experience who are finishing their degrees; and some are working people who attend classes to increase their skills.”
Wilson works with Felts’ class two nights each week tutoring students and troubleshooting computers in the lab. “As we work through lab projects, Lakisha helps explain things,” Felts said. “She assists anyone using the lab, and, between the two of us, we are able to help more students.”
When Wilson applied for a position at Southampton Academy, she hoped her certifications would help her get a job. “I mentioned my certifications, and a light bulb went on,” she said. She was offered a part-time job as a technology assistant two days each week. Two weeks later, the academy offered her a full-time position supervising the middle school computer lab and teaching kindergarten through sixth-grade computer classes.
“It all has to do with my certifications,” she said. “My other work experience, combined with my certifications, helped me get this great job.”
The pleasure Wilson finds in teaching has surprised her. “I never thought I’d be interested in education,” she said. “I really enjoy it. The kids make me feel so good every day.”
Wilson is now exploring the possibility of pursuing a four-year degree in technology education. “I definitely will teach,” she said. “I’ve come full circle. My first college experience didn’t go so well, but now I’m considering a four-year degree.”
Office Specialist success helped Wilson develop a passion for technology. “I want to do what inspires me,” she said. “I am inspired by working with people and computers.”
Wilson is also impressed by the financial value certification has had in her life. “I don’t have a degree yet, but I can land a decent job,” she said. “The money can only go up from here.”
“Her certifications have opened avenues, and she’s earning a higher salary,” Felts said. “When a student obtains a certification, it puts them above the rest of the people in the applicant pool. It puts them in a different category.”
With plans to take a Microsoft Access course and Office Specialist exam this semester, earn expert-level Office Specialist credentials and Microsoft Office Specialist Master certification, and certify in Certiport Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³®), Wilson is eager to continue to prove the skills she has. “Ten years ago, I never would have thought of a certification that existed nationally-or internationally,” she said. “But now I have that certification, and I can take it with me forever on my résumé. I have a physical certificate that says I’m highly qualified to use these programs.”
“Lakisha is way beyond what’s expected,” Felts said. “She has experienced more than traditional students. She had to study, dig, and prepare, but her certifications have enabled her to do the work she does.”
Certiport prepares individuals and communities with current and relevant digital skills and credentials for the competitive global workforce. These solutions include Certiport Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³®) and the Microsoft® Office Specialist certification programs delivered by more than 12,000 Certiport centers worldwide. For more information, visit www.certiport.com.
“Certiport” and “IC³” are registered trademarks of Certiport, Inc. in the United States and other countries. “Microsoft” is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.