College of Marin Takes Business Information Worker Program to the Community

The word outreach is thrown around a lot in the higher ed world, but College of Marin has given it a whole new meaning with its efforts to show the community the benefits of the Business Information Worker (BIW) program.

Rather than relying on digital marketing to promote the program, the college went to the YWCA, a place where women from all walks of life come together to pick up new skills as part of the organization’s Fifty+ employment program.

A Joe Ritchie, a faculty member in the college’s Computer Information Systems department, visited the YWCA’s computer lab and held an information session for women who were taking classes in preparation for re-entry into the workforce.

Ritchie met with YWCA staff in advance to determine what skills its students were looking for and how BIW could help. The presentation included the opportunity to register for classes on the spot, information on financial aid, and networking with student ambassadors.

“This past fall, we had a number of ladies from YWCA taking Excel,” Ritchie said. “It’s great to have found them there.”

The YWCA presentation is one of many BIW information sessions that have been held throughout the community.

“We have conducted outreach activities where faculty will visit a site and give a demonstration on a BIW related application, with college counselors along to answer questions and support the registration process. This has proved to be successful,” Ritchie said.

People looking to re-enter the workforce are one of four key demographics for the BIW program. Others include first-generation college students, working professionals, and students transferring to other institutions.

Ritchie said it’s not uncommon for people from all four groups to be in the same class, which means they have the opportunity to learn from each other as well as from the instructor.

In addition to his outreach work at the YWCA, Ritchie met with representatives from an insurance company, one of the area’s largest employers, and asked about the “bare minimum” skills needed to hire an office professional. The response was that they were looking for people who could make a pivot table or chart in Excel.

He now uses this as a recruiting point for the BIW program.

“I tell them the employer will ask ‘How good are you at pivot tables and pivot charts?’ This is a shortcut to end interviews,” Ritchie said. “They want a certain level of proficiency.”

Across the board, Ritchie emphasizes that people need to be proactive in learning skills needed to be successful on the job. BIW covers areas such as Microsoft Office, web literacy, and business communication skills.

“Employers don’t want to spend money to train you,” Ritchie said. “They want you to walk in with a certain skill set. They are not going to get you up to speed.”

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