1.1 Background to the Study
Secretarial Education is a tool for alleviating poverty. This means that a secretarial graduate that is well traipsed, well equipped with technological knowledge could be employed and could also be on his/her own and as well be an employer of labour. Secretarial Education is useful to modern business offices both private organization, governmental organization and Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) in terms of employment opportunity, job creation and self-reliance. Job-tasks can include many varied duties – like research, typing, producing flyers, filing, transcription, screening telephone calls, appointments, liaising with clients and other staff members, attending meetings, composing of letters, making travel arrangement, supervising, training staff etc. The major role or tasks the secretary performs is to provide assistance to a manager or managers (Amoor, 2009).
The Modern Business Office is the office gazetted with information and communication technology devoid of the traditional way or manual way of performing tasks. In modern world, no business or office can succeed without the Information and Communication Technology. It makes work to be done faster, clearer, and more accurate than the traditional method of using typewriters, duplicating machine, cutting of stencil, delay in transmission of message, filing in cabinets in terms of storing information etc. but in modern business office Information and communication Technology had taken over every burden. Changes as a result of offices automation, has brought about new methods in carrying out functions performed by Secretaries in organizations. At the centre of the new trends in the office are the office information systems and these new trends in technological innovations place greater responsibilities on business educators and secretarial education students. Secretaries in the organizations of yesterday dealt with papers, worked with manual machines, relied on postal services for external communications and kept the office records in files and cabinets. Nowadays, secretaries do not deal with papers or carry out their duties manually because all office tasks are handled with electronic and telecommunication gadgets (Ntukidem, 2000).
The aim of educating someone is to develop the desirable qualities in him or her. Education is a process of enabling individuals to live as useful and acceptable members of the society. This is why Denga (2001) describes an educated man as a refined gentleman or gentlewoman, socially, morally, intellectually, physically and aesthetically. For a person to be seen as refined, one needs to demonstrate some basic competencies that would enable him/her function effectively as a producer and consumer of goods and services. There is no doubt some fundamental societal norms and values are basic requirements for a person to survive in the society.
Therefore, the skills, attitudes and knowledge required to prepare such persons for effective performance in chosen career is education. A Business Educator has the sole responsibility of producing learning experiences that could be acquired through a sound Business Education Curriculum. In line with this, Agumuo (1997) says, there is generally increase in complexity and world wide interaction of business, industry and numerous technologies and the changes they have brought have affected the way things are done in the office. These technologies include the facsimile machines, interactive technologies, Internet, Electronic Mail (e-mail), Voicemail, teleconferencing and other new information systems. These innovations in office technology have almost completely altered the nature, environment, content, tasks and competencies in Secretarial Education all over the world.
Increasing number of business executives expect their secretaries to function as administrative assistance who can relief them of their numerous routine and specialized tasks. The secretary has always been a vital link between those who make management level decisions and those who react and implement the decisions. Agumuo (1997) also adds that due to the dynamic nature of the office, task of the secretaries has continued to assume added dimension. Agumuo (1997) observes that for large organization today, the secretary can lend administrative support to Executive by handling long time consuming tasks such as compiling and organizing information for report and long memorandum, maintaining confidentialities, disseminating information relating to administrative policies, researching data for presentation to be given by the executive, composing and dictating certain letters and performing any other duties delegated by management.
Osuala (1998) adds that, most of the activities of the office such as accounting, mail handling, and filing, telephone switching systems, reprographics and others are now performed by self regulating machines. The secretary controls most of these machines. Brussels (2007), states that secretarial task is interesting, challenging and undergoing many changes and the changes have made the secretarial profession even more appealing. The biggest change of all has been to the name `Secretary’ that secretaries are now becoming more known as “Office Professionals” and this title indicates that the secretary’s role can be expected to include some managerial duties. These include supervising other office workers or administrative staff or even training staff.
Oyeyiola (2005) points out some of the tasks of a Secretary as : Typing of memorandum, business letters and correspondence of various kind, Handle computer/word processing related activities, Transcribe dictated material into mail-able document, Arrange files and various information into appropriate headings, Manage the boss appointment diary and Act behalf of the boss.
From the above points, it is noted that the traditional tasks performed by the secretaries in the North-Central Nigeria differ from the modern tasks in the same geo political zone. This therefore, gives the background information in the context of which this study was conducted.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Office technology and innovation have affected the way things are done in the office. This means great transformation in the tasks performed by Secretaries in the modern business offices such as: Communication services, Computer operation, word processing, Database, Excel etc. There is great concern by Business Educators that the current National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) curriculum and course specifications for Secretarial Education published in 1998 no long meet the needs of the modern business office. Nwosu (1997) views that within the period of 1990 – 1999, the world has witnessed unprecedented innovations especially in computer, telecommunication and micro graphic.
From observation and interaction of the researcher with some of the Secretaries, it was observed that some of the equipment and machines used in producing documents are obsolete and cumbersome and also not able to meet up with the current challenges in the offices with the global Technology of the 21st Century. Incompetence on the part of Secretarial Education graduates in terms of interview into white collar job. A Secretarial Education graduates went for an interview at National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT) and could not perform better than students from other institutions because they were practically oriented and more acquainted with the new technologies than those from Business Education in the North Central Nigeria.
Secretarial Education graduates are not conversant with the operation of Internet that is; how to go online and offline and even to send e-mail through their e-mail is difficult except with the help of an expert or operator. Moreso, from researcher’s interaction with Secretarial Education graduates working in an organization it was found that some of them were not able to operate computer because they were adaptive to the use of typewriter which rendered their service in an organization useless and these made their employer to look for someone who is computer literate and acquainted with the new technologies. Another problem observed was that Secretarial Education teachers that is, those that found themselves in teaching line were not able to teach computer courses effectively even to operate computer was difficult instead they hired the services of people from other department to take the course or that particular subject. Browsing on the Internet is part of the new technology or the modern things that is been done in the office today. A number of educators cannot browse except to go to the Café and look for assistance of the operators there. Hence there is this problem of incompetence in using and teaching computer courses or subject. And one of the major problems militating against the Secretarial Education at all levels in the North-Central Nigeria is inadequate manpower.
In line with the stated problems, the researcher deemed it necessary to carry out this study in order to know the actual job tasks the Secretarial Education Students are required to perform in modern business offices