UNSW student stars in global Excel challenge, boosts career prospects


Hand Ethan Wong a spreadsheet – and he’ll hand back a solution; an award-winning solution.

Wong was recently named Australia’s winner in the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship and will now go forward to the international finals scheduled for 2022.

As an information systems student at UNSW, Wong has already tested his Excel skills through the Microsoft certification program offered at the University. Prodigy Learning partners with UNSW, and a range of other universities, schools, and colleges to provide Microsoft skills certifications.

Eimer Henderson, Account Manager, Prodigy Learning explained “We work with UNSW to realise their digital skills strategy within the Business School – embedding the Excel associate certification into two of their business modules – and it is offered to all business skills students through the careers accelerator program.

Together we’re creating an environment for students to gain industry-recognised in-demand certifications and really close the skills gap that exists in Australia for those digital skills.

The MOS Excel Certification Program at UNSW, offering Microsoft Excel Associate and Microsoft Excel Expert was first launched in the University’s Business School in 2018, initially as a co-curricular offering before it was integrated with courses in the School of Economics.

“Increasingly, students are looking for ways to develop their technical skills as they complete their degrees, especially the technology that underpins so much of the way we work today,” said Professor Mark Uncles, Senior Deputy Dean (Education & Student Experience), UNSW.

In 2021, UNSW’s Bachelor of Commerce degree also integrated the certification. Uncles says;

Demand for Microsoft Excel Certification has grown in the past couple of years and is now embedded in key UNSW Business School programs such as the Integrated First Year courses of the Bachelor of Commerce, providing students with the career support they need to develop a robust set of skills and ultimately achieve their goals.

Excel certification is also a mandated assessment in UNSW’s, ‘Evidence-based Problem Solving’ course, giving students the opportunity to develop their Excel skills for data analysis, interpretation and presentation, setting them up for future career success. MOS Excel certifications are offered as an optional, additional course for all students in the UNSW Business School.

Almost 3,000 UNSW students signed up for the Excel certification program in 2021 and this is the second time that a UNSW student has made it through to the MOS World Championship global finals.

Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship

The Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) World Championship is a global competition that tests students’ skills in Microsoft Office applications and is operated and sponsored in Australia by Prodigy Learning. More than 1,000 students aged 13-22 competed in the Australian event, and Wong will now have the chance to compete against the best of the 760,000-plus students from 116 countries who compete to be named the world leader in Word, Excel or PowerPoint.

The runners up in the Australian challenge were Nicole Lipinksi from Saint Stephen’s College and Marcus Miccelli from the Australian College of Commerce & Management, who is also a Microsoft trainee.

The global pandemic has meant that the last two years’ global finals have been virtual events with country winners being given Microsoft products as rewards instead of the opportunity to visit the US.

Hopefully in 2022 Wong will have the chance to fly to the US for the finals and compete for the $US7,500 first prize.

Wong explains that he signed up for the Excel certification through the UNSW Co-op scholarship program’s professional development scheme. “I did the associate one and did well in that test and that qualified me for the finals,” he says, adding that he prepared for the competition using LearnKey Video Learning programs and GMetrix Practice Tests – the official practice tests for MOS Excel Associate.

The experience has also prepared him for success in the modern digital workplace and a work experience opportunity that be begins at AMP in early 2022.

Microsoft certification will be helpful especially as my degree is between business and the technology side – communicating between the engineers and business people. Having a skill such as Excel shows my abilities – it’s seen as a really valuable skill in the modern workplace, especially making the finals.

For students thinking about the 2022 championship Wong says; “Take the opportunity – it’s once in a lifetime – you don’t get many opportunities to represent Australia. Strive with your best efforts.”

Wise words from a winner.