SANTA ROSA -- Everywhere you look these days you see young and old alike using two fingers, or thumbs, to input text on laptop keyboards or handheld devices.

While emphasis is being placed on math and science in schools, touch typing proficiency (using all 10 fingers without looking at the keys) is seen as less than essential -- or at best only as an elective, rather than a graduation requirement.

“Young people are not only using keyboards in school, but in every aspect of their lives. The advent of personal computers has expanded this use considerably, along with the need for touch typing skills,” said Barbara Prassas, owner of Type A+, a new computer keyboarding training center just off Highway 101 at 90 Mark West Springs Road, Suite 210, adjacent to the new Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa.

“Many subscribe to the false assumption that students can learn touch typing in just a few hours in a computer lab or on their own. But there is often not enough equipment, or hours, for them to achieve proficiency, accuracy and speed. Most of these sessions provide basic typing instruction, but not touch typing training, which is a critical tool and a life skill. Touch typing should be taught as early as in the third or fourth grade.”

Academic and job-seeker success depend upon the ability to type over 35 words per minute (wpm) with 90 percent accuracy, according to the Typing Institute of America (TIA).

"Today the average person cannot type more than 25 wpm without a number of errors,” said Steve Burgess, executive director at TIA. “There is a direct correlation between touch typing skills and pay scales for many positions.”

According to Mr. Burgess, a person who can type 55 wpm with 98 percent accuracy will earn considerably more than someone typing 30 wpm with only 83 percent accuracy.

Experts say 25 lessons, of approximately an hour, are needed to achieve a proficient touch typing skill level.

“With so many core curriculum requirements for math, language arts, science and social studies, there is little time left for classes such as touch typing,” said Nancy Brownell, assistant superintendent, instructional division, at the Sonoma County Office of Education.

For more information about Type A+ Computer Keyboarding Classes, call 707-545-8973 or email Barbara Prassas at barbara@typeaplus.org.