Teens winning Microsoft Office championships is funny, but these skills are in need.
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Middle-schoolers competing to see who can fill an Excel spreadsheet the fastest may seem like a nerdy pastime, but it’s actually part of a worldwide competition that just crowned the best of the best. And while you may have chuckled reading about a Microsoft Office competition, being able to fill out spreadsheets quickly and accurately can land a big paycheck.

Microsoft Office Specialist

John Dumoulin won the Excel 2016 event of the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship. Dumoulin is a 17-year-old from Northern Virginia.

Now, the first thought that crosses your mind is, what is the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship? And the next thought is, why are teens doing the work that adults barely want to do for competition?

This is the 16th version of the event put together by, of course, Microsoft and Certifort. Certifort is owned by the testing company Pearson VUE and is responsible for presenting certifications in Microsoft Office programs, allowing people to say they know how to use a program like Powerpoint on their resume.

And while this may seem like just a stunt to promote Microsoft’s Office suite and Certifort’s Microsoft Office Specialist certification, knowing how to use the programs can mean a boost to your paycheck. Employers are looking for people with expertise in these programs.

The competition

The 16th Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship event took place last month. Competitors from all over the world ranging in age from 13 to 22 competed in Anaheim, California to show off their skills in Office and PowerPoint.

Competitors are chosen through the Microsoft Office Specialist certification test. Every child that takes the test is entered into the competition — those that are highest-ranked in their region are notified about their placement and invited to the national tournament.

Every participant is allowed to compete in only one version of one program, so if they compete in Excel 2016, they can’t take part in Excel 2003. Prizes for winning first place in a program include $7,000 and, of course, an Xbox; second place wins $3,500 and an Asus Transformer Mine, and third place gets $1,500 and a NuVision Solo Draw tablet.

Excel-ing at work

The cash prizes and recognition can be satisfying, but what comes after the tournament? Winning the world competition is highest prize for their achievements, now their talents can transfer over to real work. One of the highest skills in demand is being able to use Excel.

Novel Aspects did a rundown of the top software skills and categories that are in demand on Indeed.com, finding that Excel and Spreadsheets top what employers want based on their job listings. Knowing how to use Excel or Word is a requirement in 78 percent of middle-skill jobs, according to a report by Burning Glass Technologies.

Middle-skill jobs as defined by the study are those that don’t require a college degree but pay more than the median national living wage of $15 an hour. The report shows that middle-skill jobs that require Excel and no other digital skills pay a median of $22.66 an hour compared to a median of $20.14 an hour for middle-skill jobs with no software requirement. The report also shows that middle-skill jobs that require digital skills grew 2.5 times faster than middle-skill jobs that don’t have digital skills as a requirement.

Takeaway

Competing to see who can finish their Excel spreadsheet may seem nerdy, but it’s a useful skill in the marketplace. Not only does learning this skill lead to an increase in wages, but it also will allow for future employment in more highly skilled jobs. Business is increasingly dependent on ways to store and read data, and knowing how to get the most out of Excel can help with that.

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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Posted 08.23.2017 - 02:00 pm EDT