Keith Wymer, of Pitman Training in London’s High Holborn and Notting Hill and Central Manchester, explains that anyone with aspirations of being a secretary or PA should be typing at 70 words per minute (wpm), while administrators need to be working at a speed of around 45 wpm.
“If you’re an IT professional, at least 45 wpm would be good as well,” says Mr Wymer.
He explains that while IT is often viewed as a male-dominated sector, unlike the secretarial profession, which is usually associated with women, typing skills remain critically important for anyone within the industry.
Secretarial training providers establish typing speed by comparing the number of errors made to the number of words typed in a given amount of time, say five minutes. Mr Wymer confirms that most people who have never learned properly by taking a typing course usually have a speed of around ten to 12 wpm, far below the level required by employers.
“Let’s face it, most people don’t use all their fingers and thumbs on the keyboard and they look at their fingers or the screen as they type.”
“People who look at their fingers when they type are really dragged down by the brain watching what’s going on, whereas if you can learn to touch type, which means typing without looking, then your fingers can do it automatically as they know which keys they should be on.”
“It’s almost as if you’re disconnecting the reading part of the brain and connecting it to the typing bit.”
“By just taking a 25 hour typing course course, you’ll probably double and possibly triple your productivity,” he explains.
Touch typing courses help people to improve their speed by giving them complex exercises to help them stretch their fingers apart more, in the same way that they would need to if learning to play the piano,” says Mr Wymer.
They also help trainees to develop a rhythm in order to move them closer to that all-important 45 or 70 wpm level. In terms of finding a job, it is extremely important to have these skills in place.
Claire Magloire, who is taking a course leading to a secretarial diploma, reveals that she felt it necessary to add to her qualifications, despite holding a degree in commercial music production and business management.
“You go through secondary school and university when you suddenly find out you have no skills for the workplace,” she says.
Ms Magloire, 24, followed the advice of her Mum, who had also undergone Pitman Training 25 years earlier, and embarked upon a secretarial course in High Holborn.
With secretarial skills, you’ll always be in demand, she asserts.
“Learning touch typing on its own was very valuable. It makes a difference to how much you earn,” she reveals. She managed to secure a temporary job with the International Cricket Council, even before completing her secretarial diploma.
Ms Magloire says that having Pitman Training on her CV was an advantage, as it is a trusted skills provider.
Keith Wymer echoes Ms Magloire’s comments, saying that with the jobs market as competitive as it is at the moment, a recruitment agency will not look at a secretarial candidate who does not have the required qualifications.
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“Most of the agencies on the high street, they will run a typing test, and if you’re not up to speed they won’t bother with you, so that’s quite a critical point,” he explains.
According to Mr Wymer, many recruitment professionals work on commission-based salaries, so will prefer to choose applicants with the required speed, who will be easier to place in a secretarial position.
“With so many applicants per job at the moment, those who can type fast and accurately will have a competitive advantage over those who can’t,” he asserts.
Typing courses are also particularly important for people whose first language is not English, as they may be used to a different keyboard layout to the Qwerty design used in Britain, Mr Wymer concludes.