Gone are the days of employees dedicated solely to routine clerical support. With today’s administrative professionals serving as event planners, customer service reps, and communicators, Baker College is among several learning institutions changing its curriculums to better reflect today’s business needs.
“I think we’re all pretty familiar with the previous role of — and I hate to use this word because I think of these folks as so much more than that — secretaries, which was pretty well defined,” says Cindy Gansen, system director for business programs at Baker College. “They may have taken notes and typed up some minutes. They weren’t thought of as an integral part of the office. But we know, and employers have told us, that they rely on that person now more (than ever before).”
With that in mind, the school’s associate degree program — available at seven of the school’s campuses, including Auburn Hills, Cass City, Clinton Township, Flint, Muskegon, Owosso, and Cadillac — now includes more program-specific classes and fewer general business classes. Classes added to the program requirements include workplace technology, workplace management, business communication, and intermediate spreadsheets.
Gansen says research shows that today’s administrative professional positions require a laundry list of skills. This includes project management, computer software applications, Intranet/Internet communications, document preparation and storage (with an emphasis on electronic record keeping), and public relations.
The evolving nature of the position can be attributed, in part, to employees being required to take on additional duties as companies and business downsize, Gansen says. “There might have once been multiple people covering a variety of roles, and now those responsibilities have been (assigned) to just one person.”
As the career field evolves, demand for qualified talent has increased. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the administrative professional field will grow 12 percent between 2012 and 2022.
Not all of the positions require the employee to be on site, however. Gansen notes that there has been a growing demand for virtual assistants, something she says first started in the real estate industry.
“Originally, these people would make appointments for people to go view houses online, and it just kind of mushroomed from there,” Gansen says. “Anything that you can do in an office can be done in a virtual location, as well.”