Story by Edna Troiano and Photography by Ed Mann
Wouldn't we all like to keep it simple? No tiny home repair that morphs into major remodeling; no job description that expands yearly; no juggling family, job, home and community. Well, Laura Allison of Keep It Simple can't solve all our problems, but she can keep one thing simple: the technology training we all need to cope with our jobs and our lives.
Keep It Simple, located in Prince Frederick, was established in 1991 to serve the training needs of small businesses. Two years later, Allison opened a site with classrooms. The population explosion in Calvert County over the last decade, coupled with the county's proximity to D.C., Annapolis and Patuxent River Naval Air Station, has created a burgeoning demand for technology training.
The success of Keep It Simple is reflected in the awards it has won. In both 1999 and 2000, the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce granted it the Small Business of the Year award. And in 2009, Keep It Simple won the Leading Edge Award, an award sponsored by the Corporate Center at the College of Southern Maryland that "celebrates individuals and businesses that spur economic growth and vigor in Southern Maryland."
Keep It Simple has an appealing philosophy: the company, well, keeps it simple. Allison explains that about the only thing she recognizes under her car's hood is where to check the oil and where to add the windshield washer fluid. She doesn't need to understand the principals of the combustion engine; she just needs to know how to drive the car. The same is true for most technology instruction. Students don't need complex theory or even an in-depth understanding of how a computer operates. Keep It Simple concentrates on what students need to know. Most courses are brief - one or two days - and focus either on computer literacy, including courses on the Internet, e-mail and Microsoft Windows, or on applications, such as Adobe Illustrator, Intuit QuickBooks, and Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel.
Students often come to Keep It Simple saying that they tried to learn a computer skill, but the person teaching them went too fast, used terms they didn't understand, or simply had them watch and assumed they could repeat the task. Keep It Simple addresses these problems in several ways. First, training, which is always provided by certified instructors, is in plain English. Instructors avoid jargon and introduce technical terms only as needed. Second, because it's difficult for people to learn when they're tense, Keep It Simple facilitates learning by maintaining a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. Instructors reward students for learning - or even for asking questions - with tiny prizes. They encourage students to think of the new skill as a tool, and to recognize that once they're competent handling the tool, they will enjoy using it. Instructors also create a lively classroom that demonstrates that learning and having fun are not incompatible.
For students concerned about their ability to retain new skills, Keep It Simple offers several reassurances. Students have free practice time and free exams retakes. Should they feel they haven't mastered the material, or if they have a gap between when they take a class and when they use the new skill, they can repeat the course within a year for no additional fee.
Federal, state and local government agencies, contractors, and private industry generate almost 75 percent of Keep It Simple's business; small businesses generate about 15%, and individuals 10%. So if you're looking to develop your computer skills, or if you're a manager considering staff training, it doesn't have to be complicated. Just Keep It Simple.
Keep It Simple is located in the Calvert Village Shopping Center. More information, including class schedules and payment options, is available at www.keepitsimple.net
or by calling 866-PC-SKILLS.