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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Clerical occupations: Do they still exist?

By Alison Currie
Special to The Sun

The level of expertise needed by a clerical worker 20 years ago does not parallel the expertise one needs today. Even the title "clerical worker" is outdated, trading up for the more modern and fitting "administrative professional."

And with the change in name is the alteration of the job description and qualifications. The growth of business administrative services is a key labour market and industrial change that has impacted today's administrative occupations.


These new enterprises make it possible for companies to "outsource" administrative functions within their business that do not directly generate income -- duties such as payroll, IT, employee benefits, claims processing, reservations, or customer sales and care.

At the root of this change are the pressures of a demanding and shifting economy. The Internet has paved the way for a new technological infrastructure for handling administrative processes and communications, and E-business practices are transforming how industries, governments and services do their work.

One outcome has been fewer corporate jobs for administrative professionals, which in turn places higher expectations on the range of skills for administrative professionals.

According to the Trends, Opportunities and Priorities Report produced by the Toronto Training Board (TOP), clerical occupations declined by 19.5% and were among the Top Five Declining Occupational Groups during 1991-2001.

The TOP Report is compiled after each census (a complete copy of the report is available at

The tools and skills that the remaining group of administrative professionals need are considerable. Many are increasingly responsible for projects, budgets and certain financial decisions. They must be comfortable with all forms of electronic communications as they are often required to maintain websites and produce newsletters.

Not having the appropriate skills will limit job opportunities or will make it difficult for many administrators to transition into new roles.

Karen Lior, the executive director at the Toronto Training Board states: "The priority issue is providing new training or retraining for administrators or underemployed clerical workers to build skills to manage new tasks."

The question then arises: Where can administrative professionals get help?

The Office Workers Career Centre (OWCC) is one agency that can fulfill this need. OWCC promotes administrative work as a valued profession and prepares office workers for successful career transition in a changing labour market.

The centre offers pre-employment workshops, the use of a computer lab to maintain office skills, a career assessment program and access to a Job Board.

To use the centre and access any of its services, all one needs is one year of continuous office administrative work experience in the last 10 years.

OWCC will schedule an orientation session; call 416-925-7155 to register for their services.

The OWCC will help turn change for administrative professionals into opportunities.

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