How do I help Mom get digital?
August 17, 2009 10:27 AM   Subscribe

How do I help my mother prepare for a modern office job after 30 years in a Luddite environment?

My mother has worked as a bookkeeper for a small company for over 30 years. She's enjoyed the job, but it's starting to look as if she won't be at that job this time next year.

She's very worried that she won't be able to get another job because of her age (she's 66, which she thinks is ancient for the working world, but, given the candidates I've seen at my company for open positions, isn't at all outside of the hiring pool), and the fact that the office she's been working in just got a computer last year. They do all their books by hand, type correspondence on an electric typewriter, and only replaced their rotary phones when the majority of their suppliers required them to go through phone trees for customer service.

Because she helped my brother with his company's books for some time, she knows QuickBooks fairly well, but doesn't know anything beyong the basics of any MS Office program.

I would like to help her prepare to become more employable. She can't commit to a classroom schedule (too many grandkids who need last-minute babysitting), but she likes a more interactive approach than a book.

I know there are a ton of videos and online courses out there. What's good for a self-paced, bright, basic-level bookkeeper who would like to put down the abacus and start working somewhere close to the 21st century?
posted by xingcat to Education (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are pretty good.
posted by IanMorr at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps she should get a how-to, but use it to "work at home": try to replicate what she's done at work, on the computer. That ties what she's doing, which she's good at, with what she wants to be doing, which she's not good at.

Regarding age, at least she's a she. My grandmothers have both taken to computers quite well (in their 80s). Grandpas, not so much. Both grandmothers did clerical work their whole careers. I don't think 66 is too old any more.
posted by notsnot at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2009


Is there a community college where she could take a few courses? Mine offers an intro to GUI as well as to spreadsheets, database, etc.

I started with these, planning to move into temp work for experience.

As it happens, I stayed on for more courses, had the opportunity to work for my dean temporarily, and wound up with the beginnings of a professional network. (One of my profs from last spring just called asking if I would like to be recommended for a job.)

The community college probably offers as few or as many courses as she might feel helpful, with options to matriculate or not.
posted by jaruwaan at 11:02 AM on August 17, 2009


She could look at online courses. Kind of a 'jump in the deep end' approach, but online would help her polish the skills she has, and most of them are 'work at your own pace' - thus suitable for someone with last-minute babysitting duties.
posted by sandraregina at 11:11 AM on August 17, 2009


Because she helped my brother with his company's books for some time, she knows QuickBooks fairly well, but doesn't know anything beyong the basics of any MS Office program.

IanMorr's got it. Honestly, the online tutorials that Microsoft has for their own products are really, really good. I taught myself Access that way. If she's anything like me (or, pretty much, anyone), she'll do a better job learning at her own pace using computerized instructions and sitting in a classroom. I'd previously taken a class or two in Access through my old job and a frustrating amount of time was spent teaching some class members how to use a mouse--we hardly got through any material, much less used the software enough to retain any information.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:02 PM on August 17, 2009


"She can't commit to a classroom schedule (too many grandkids who need last-minute babysitting)". What? Her needs come last? If face-to-face teaching is what she prefers, then that is surely what she should get.

Many people really cannot learn from books and videos. I teach computing to over-60s at a local centre, and they definitely prefer having a live person explaining directly to them and answering their questions. It is hard to know when you wind up at a screen not in your book or video whether you have made a big mistake or a little one. The principles are often not apparent in the recipes they give you to follow. I suggest your best action is to persuade your brothers and sisters to help her have the time to do things the easy way.
posted by Idcoytco at 12:57 PM on August 17, 2009


One more suggestion ... our local library has all kinds of computer classes. They are free, open to all ages and go way beyond the basics of email and googling for seniors. Maybe it's worth seeing if a library in your area offers this kind of thing.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:21 PM on August 17, 2009


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