Working Together: Certification Synergies

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Certification, like the rest of the IT industry, has been undergoing a series of changes over the past 18 months, in response to the challenges in the IT industry, and the impact is felt around the world. Developers are more thoughtful and selective in the certifications they require and promote. Companies seek to have their employees and partners get certified in core and strategic technologies that are aligned with their business goals. Academia is looking to find the most strategic tracks that will give their “newly minted” developers the best advantage, and technology companies are looking to increase mind share and brain share for their products. In all cases, the decision-makers, developers and students are seeking certification credentials that are industry-recognized, portable, relevant and of high technical value.

In this environment, those organizations that provide technical certification programs for the IT industry have been busy re-architecting their programs and aligning road maps to respond with better value propositions for all their audiences. We saw this happening across the board, among IT heavyweights, vendor-neutral and nonprofit industry organizations.

What does this mean for those in the certification side of the industry? It seems that IT certification is rapidly coming of age and starting to be a critical success factor for players across the IT spectrum. Employers can be more selective than two to three years ago. Resources are also much more limited, both for companies and individuals. This environment forces everyone to re-examine and challenge the status quo. The emerging scenario seems to be a focus on fewer, more well-defined, well-understood certifications that will be recognized across the industry and around the world. In short, it’s not how many certifications you have, but which ones you have that will give you the advantage.

Collaboration and Convergence in the Industry
There have been notable milestones in the area of creating synergy in IT certification over the past several months. Here are a few that are part of this trend toward consolidation, industry focus and collaboration:

 

 

  • At an industry level, we saw organizations coming together and establishing partnerships to drive certification initiatives that will affect developers across the industry.
  • In May 2002, we saw the National Workforce Center for Emerging Technologies (NWCET) partnering with ProsoftTraining to form the CIW Certification Council to set directions for CIW’s program, which focused on industry-standard job skills. The effect here is that the certification programs that CIW will deliver for developers will be heavily driven by this new council and will reflect industry standards and needs. The first meeting of the CIW Certification Council was held in April in Dallas, Texas, with representation from an impressive list of companies and organizations—Boeing, Novell, Microsoft, The University of Phoenix, Sun Microsystems, The Linux Professional Institute (LPI), The State of Louisiana, Catapult Systems, CompTIA, The Texas Council on Workforce and Economic Competitiveness, The National Skill Standards Board, Chauncey Group International, The Council on Adult and Experiential Learning, Central Piedmont Community College, Collin County Community College, Seminole Community College and LANwrights Inc.
  • In June 2002, CompTIA formed a new partnership with the NWCET to develop and promote a single system of skill standards for the IT industry. Under this agreement, CompTIA and NWCET, both well-known for their IT workforce development, education and certification programs, plan to collaborate and work with government and industry organizations to establish and promote common skill standards in the information and communication technology (ICT) arena.
  • In September 2002, we saw another significant partnership, this time in the Java space. The jCert Initiative, a consortium of Java-based enterprise development software vendors, and CIW, the leading vendor-neutral certification for Web and enterprise development, agreed to integrate their programs to create a single training and certification path for employers and individuals. The unified road map covers four job roles: Web developer, Java programmer, solution developer and enterprise developer. jCert members include BEA, IBM, CGS, SkillSoft, Sun, ProsoftTraining and Prometric. With the rapid growth, fierce competition and battle for leadership in this space, we have seen increasing consolidation around the Java, .NET and Linux environments, all looking to grab leadership positions in the rapidly growing space.
  • Looking closer at this e-business space, we saw IBM, Microsoft and Novell all establishing synergies with CompTIA’s certifications in 2002. IBM now recognizes CompTIA’s Linux+ certification as an elective toward the IBM Certified for E-Business Solution Technologist, a certification for technical professionals responsible for implementing e-business solutions. Microsoft recognizes CompTIA’s A+, Network+ and Server+ certifications as electives in its Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSA) program. And Novell recognizes CompTIA’s Network+ and IT Project+ certifications as part of its Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) and Master CNE certifications.

 

We seem to be in the middle of a period of consolidation, rationalization and partnerships that are driving the certification industry toward maturity, reduction of redundancy and clarity in certified skills, roles and programs in the market. In a word, this movement is creating greater synergy in certifications across the industry.

The changes that we have started to see over the past several months will continue to evolve over the next 18 months, at which time we can expect a much clearer and synergistic certification landscape. With the increasing global nature of the IT industry, the importance of certification and the need for industry-based roles, programs and standards continues to get attention from governments, IT companies, training companies, academia, etc. This focus is not limited to North America. As a matter of fact, there is keen interest in the emerging countries around the evolution of standards and industry-recognized certifications. As countries like India and China ramp up the pace and magnitude of workforce transformation, they know that the engine that will drive jobs for their newly minted developers sits in North America and Europe. As such, certifications that are recognized worldwide, and more so in North America and Europe, are at the core of IT skills programs. With the focus on skills for both the offshore and export market, it is important for these new developers to have certified skills that will stand them in good stead with a wide range of employers. Another important consideration is that these potential employers will very likely be using a wide range of products in their development and production organizations.

Across the industry, heterogeneous environments are more the norm than the exception. As well, the definition of a developer’s career has changed—being able to move and adapt to new products and technical environments is as important as the core technical skills themselves.

One of the largest groups of new developers being targeted by IT companies and employers is the population of Java-centric developers—those who use Java and Java-based tools to build and deploy applications on servers across intranets and the Internet. The evolution of the certification standards for these Java-centric developers is of particular importance as we see the world of Web servers and Web services mature and become the epicenter of IT activity over the next several years. In Europe, organizations concerned about the huge estimates of numbers of developers needed over the next three to five years (1.9 million according to some studies) a

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