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They see a future as secretaries

On Friday 13 November 2016 the following article was published in Adresseavisen, (commonly known as Adressa) a regional newspaper in Trondheim, Norway

Translated to English by Nora Nordan

They see a future as secretaries

Did you think that secretaries were old-fashioned and extinct? Think again!

Mona Malvik (23) is a Legal Secretary student at Treider Fagskoler Trondheim. Linn Aune (29), Tonje Solvik (27) and Cecilie Hansen (21) want to be Medical Secretaries.

According to André Jensen, Regional Director for Treider Fagskoler in Trondheim, they need not be afraid of ending up unemployed.

“Our surveys show that six months after completing their studies, four out of five of our students are in employment”.


Creating order

Mona Malvik hopes to get a job at a law firm.

“I like this kind of work. Keeping track of documents and appointments suits my personality. We learn a lot about the law, more that I was expecting. It is challenging, but very interesting”, she says.

While the training to be a legal secretary lasts a whole academic year, studies leading to a medical secretary qualification take half an academic year. The timetable includes touch-typing, use of various software programmes, and Latin.

Latin is the most difficult subject. ”It’s not just a question of learning the Latin words, we also have to conjugate them”, says Linn Aune. Just like Tonje and Cecilie, she is really interested in healthcare.

“And I am also happy to be service-minded and keep things in order”, she adds.


Meeting vulnerable people

Tonje Solvik is a qualified auxiliary nurse.

“I would like new professional challenges and quite fancy the idea of working as a secretary in a doctor’s office. But St Olav’s Hospital would also be an exciting place to work”.

Cecilie Hansen is also interested in healthcare matters. “For reasons connected to my own health, I am unable to work as a nurse or nursing aide. I hope being a medical secretary will satisfy my urge to work in a caring profession”.

The students do not think it is coincidental that lawyers and doctors still employ secretaries.

“A lawyer has a lot to keep track of, like clients, meetings and documents. So too does a doctor. And people who come to a lawyer or a doctor are often in situations where they may feel quite vulnerable. They come with their medical or legal problems. So it is important that they are met and received appropriately”, says Cecilie Hansen.


Computers took over

While a secretary traditionally is seen as the face of the organisation towards the outside world, the work he or she does is not always so obvious. Only when the secretary is missing, does anyone become aware of what they do.

When the PC became a permanent fixture in working life, it was secretaries and other office personnel who were most affected by cutbacks in business and in the public service.

But there is still a considerable need for administrative personnel, believes Nora Nordan, Director of Studies at Treider Fagskoler in Oslo, which offers specialised secretarial training.


New Names for Old

Nora Nordan says that secretarial students often have solid theoretical knowledge, for example a Bachelor’s degree in languages or economics. They feel the need for additional practical office skills – including IT, accounting and payroll management.

Quite often, they end up by becoming the “right-hand man” of a boss or a management team.

As secretaries are becoming fewer in number, the profession and its description have changed. In business nowadays, we hear of such terms as Administrative Assistant, Personal Assistant or Administrative Coordinator. Many companies use English terms: Executive Assistant or Management Assistant.

“Basically, it is still a secretarial job. But the title of Secretary is on the way out”, says Kristin Sande, chairwoman of the Norwegian Chapter of EUMA, the international organization of European Management Assistants.


Popular profession in the USA

“The job has developed from typing letters to doing case management and managing projects. You might be asked to organise big meetings and conferences, and to prepare the materials to be used in the presentations. In Norway, it is generally only the very top management who have administrative assistants or personal assistants”, says Kristin, who is herself an Administrative Consultant in Statoil.

“Companies think they can save money by cutting out secretaries. But instead, they end up using another highly-qualified and highly-paid man or woman to do the same job. That can be quite expensive”, says Kristin Sande.

Nora Nordan supports this view.

“Secretaries are trained, among other things, in interpersonal relationships and intercultural understanding. They can maintain contact with suppliers and with sales divisions. Who else will call a repairman when the PC is misbehaving, or book travel arrangements for the boss? Secretaries ensure that the people who earn money for the company can do the job they are paid for. Today’s younger managers are good at IT, and feel perhaps that they do not need help in the office.  But I wonder if they might wish for some administrative assistance later on, when their responsibilities increase.”


People, not machines

According to Nora Nordan, medical secretaries and legal secretaries will also be good candidates for jobs in the business world.

At Treider in Trondheim, Mona Malvik, Linn Aune, Tonje Solvik and Cecilie Hansen are getting ready for their classes in accounting, IT, and medical and legal terminology.

“I am open to most things” says Linn Aune. “With this qualification, I think I will fit in anywhere”.

When asked if they are not afraid of having their jobs replaced by machines, the girls reply : “Computers may well take over parts of a secretary’s job. We notice, for example, that some doctor’s offices have installed card payment terminals. But we hope and believe that employers, clients and patients will appreciate being served by a real person, instead of a machine”.