Providence Public Library graduates first class of Microsoft Excel program

PROVIDENCE – Sixteen Rhode Island residents recently graduated from a Providence Public Library pilot program offering free Microsoft Excel and English-language training.

The class, Microsoft Excel Work Readiness Pathway for English Language Learners, had a 100% graduation rate, said Tonia Mason, marketing director at the library, with all participants completing the 12-week course earlier this month.

Furthermore, Mason said, all have expressed interest in continuing to develop their Excel skills through the program’s second level, with third and fourth phases also in the works at the library. The program received $36,000 from the R.I. Department of Labor and Training and $10,000 from the R.I. Department of Education.

Though the Microsoft Excel Work Readiness Pathway for English Language Learners class is new, the Providence Public Library has offered Microsoft Office Certificate courses and Microsoft Office Specialist classes over the past five years.

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In assessing the continuing needs of today’s workforce, library staff determined that providing an opportunity for community members to sharpen their Excel skills was an important next step, said Siyamala Sumanthiran, technology pathways coordinator at the library.

“With this basic-level training, they are ready to go for data entry or a data collection job,” Sumanthiran said.

The library worked with local businesses such as BankNewport, Centreville Bank and International Game Technology PLC to cater the classes to current industry needs, and some business partners have also agreed to help connect participants with internship and job shadowing opportunities.

One participant, Ingrid Mejia, said she appreciated that the program provided participants with the physical resources needed to complete the training, such as laptops and the Microsoft software itself.

“This is a really nice feature because it removes barriers for participants and allows them to instead focus on acquiring the skills being taught, rather than worry about having to pay for the equipment necessary in order to learn,” Mejia said.

Another graduate, Renee Williams, said that she found the class during a monthslong period where she had been unemployed and searching for a job. Williams had previously worked in data entry but felt that strengthening her Excel skills would expand her employment options in the field.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at