By Alistair McArthur
China has largely focused on the development of English language and soft skills in the corporate environment. But what has happened to the modern skills of everyday life?

Most people spend much of their day in front of computers, relying on technology to organize, plan, check and complete work. However, the argument arises that if we are spending so much time on computers, are people using them effectively and efficiently in order to get the most out of their working day on the employer's clock?

In China, training and benchmarking has been focused on Business English and soft skills development, while computer benchmarking and training of both existing employees and new recruits has been neglected. Presuming staff can use Office applications efficiently and effectively can be very expensive in the long-term as IT support get inundated with redundant help questions.

The International Computer Driving License was launched in China early 2006. It is a globally recognized qualification that was founded in Europe in 1996 and is completely vendor independent. ICDL is available in 150 countries, testing in 40 languages and is endorsed by various global organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union and multinational corporations such as British Petroleum and Nokia. It is a certification providing an international benchmark and ICDL China is the governing organization for its strategic partners in China. Now having been endorsed by the China Computer Association and the Call Center Association of China, ICDL is likely to become the future benchmark for China's IT skills as well.

The ICDL certificate is across seven modules including managing computers and files, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database and Internet usage. Acquiring the certification is as easy as sitting any modules to start claiming certifications; or completing the whole series of 45 minute assessments and acquiring the Core Level Certificate. Advanced level ICDL assessments are also available.

ICDL China General Manager Maria Pan says, "The certification is for everyone. Whether it be for companies wishing to benchmark, or individuals or job seekers who are looking at adding to their existing skill set and actually prove their computer skills with an ICDL certificate."

Currently in China, with the help of IPS, ICDL is being implemented in international school curriculums, embassies and multinationals. Pan says, "It won't be long before the Chinese education systems begin to implement the certification and corporations start to invest in their staff's everyday skills."

The return on the investment has clearly been seen in the United Kingdom where the National Health Service had all 1.3 million employees sit through the ICDL certification. There was a return of about 40 minutes increase in efficiency per day; a 40% improvement of people's confidence; and 44% less IT support required, thus dramatically decreasing these costs and a value maximization savings of around GBP13 million.

Bridging the IT skills gap in China will be an important installation in developing the required computer benchmarks in China’s education and employment arenas. The international trend of benchmarking IT skills will flow into China’s rapidly developing market, and as technology is vital in this, investing in primary skills such as computer use will be a necessary step for the future. Whether it is training on current platforms or if companies are upgrading to new systems, staff will always be able to learn new tricks in order to make the most of their time, on their employer’s time.

About the author:
Alistair McArthur is the IPS sales and marketing director. Alistair has over 6 years of professional experience as a training and development practitioner in China. He has worked with a broad range of multinational clients to develop and implement training and development approaches that positively impacts business performace, while accelerating the execution of business strategies. In his current role as sales and marketing director based in Beijing, Alistair is responsible for promoting computer skills programs as well as an increasing array of e-learning solutions. He is currently coordinating computer proficiency programs with international and local schools, in cooperation with various departments of China's Ministry of Education. More information at


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