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March 8, 2013

Blinn’s Professional Office Specialist Program guides students toward successful careers

Students gain confidence, job opportunities from new five-week program

Bethany Jackson and Jennifer Paniagua came to Blinn College’s A.W. Hodde, Jr. Technical Education Center to gain skills they’ll need as administrative assistants or executive secretaries.

But once there, they learned more than just how to work in an office – they discovered a confidence and self-awareness they didn’t know they had.

“We spent the entire first day of class figuring out who we were, what we want to be and what our strengths and weaknesses are,” said Jackson, who graduated early from Premier High School in Huntsville just a few weeks before enrolling in the course. “We learned where personality traits come from and how to improve them, also how to recognize and interact with other personalities. It’s given us loads of confidence.”

Paniagua spent the last four years working at a home improvement store before deciding she wanted a new challenge. After looking at various career choices, she decided the Hodde Center was the best path to her goals.

“I tried looking for other jobs and everything included computer skills,” Paniagua said. “I kind of got scared. Who’s going to teach me? Who’s going to give me the upgraded skills I need? I found this program and I knew it would help me better myself.”

Jackson and Paniagua were two of 11 students who graduated from the Hodde Center’s first professional office specialist class Friday. Beginning in January, they spent five weeks attending classes that taught them basic office skills as well as technical skills such as bookkeeping, payroll, inventory management, bank conciliation and the use of word processing and spreadsheet software. They were also instructed in customer service skills, workplace communication and behavior, email, verbal and nonverbal communication, formal and informal communication and listening skills.

Jackson said she enrolled to become more like her mother, who worked as an administrative secretary in Houston.

“I knew I didn’t want to go to college just yet, I just wanted to get a good job,” she said. “My mom came to me one day and said, ‘I’ve been looking for different technical courses for you,’ and she laid out a list for me. I instantly pointed to this class and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”

Jackson and Paniagua have already interviewed with potential employers. According to Hodde Center Director David Yeager, program graduates can earn between $24,000 and $34,000 in starting salary. Prior to creating the program, Blinn gathered data from the Brenham and Bryan Economic Development Foundations indicating that office specialists were projected to be among the 30 fastest-growing jobs in both the state of Texas and the Brazos Valley over the next 10 years.

The next class begins April 1 and runs through May 3. The course costs $550, and partial scholarships are available. For more class information or to fill out a scholarship application, visit: www.blinn.edu/blinntec or call 979-830-4443.