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An Integrated Certification Plan

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Are certifications a dying breed? They appear to be out of touch because of the problems with the current state of IT certification and the overwhelming confusion in the training and certification market. After more than 15 years in IT, Warren Wyrostek addresses the problem with his program called the Master of Integrated Networking. He discusses why this program could breathe new life into the certification market and satisfy a lot of the current problems and shortfalls in the current strategy.
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This is the third in a series of articles that takes a look at the current state of IT certification. The first article, "The Top 10 Problems with IT Certification in 2007/2008," looked at the following problems:

  • Certifications are vendor-centric.
  • A certification’s life cycle is short!
  • Certifications are not real-world oriented.
  • Certifications have been devalued as a result of brain dumps and the like.
  • No oversight body is monitoring certifications.
  • The debate—degree vs. certification vs. experience—continues with no clear answer.
  • HR people are not in touch with the real world—just look at what they ask for!
  • Budget cuts are killing training and motivation to be certified.
  • There is a glut of certified people.
  • No one knows which certs matter.

In the second article of the series, "Now What? First Steps into IT, 2008 Edition," I postulated that despite the problems with IT certification, some are still by choice or need pursuing certification.

That being the case, I discussed the best first steps into IT by means of certification.

This final article is my plan, solution, and design for breathing life and vitality back into IT certification.

Because of the 10 problems that I cited in the first article and the overwhelming confusion in the training and certification market, certifications appear to be out of touch and (in a sense) a dying breed.

So after more than 15 years in IT and too many certifications to count, I opted to address the problem. The program that I have developed, and am proposing and promoting, is called the Master of Integrated Networking.

Depending on who buys in, it can be a Master’s degree on a university level, a certificate on an Associates or Bachelor’s level or from a for-profit training center, or a full-blown certification if the major vendors (Novell, Microsoft, Red Hat, Cisco, and CompTIA) buy in.

Can you picture a certification that was supported and backed by five major networking vendors??? Think of this: a program that addresses a void in the real world market in which all five major vendors co-exist. Nothing currently exists like this program. Why? Because certifications are vendor- and product oriented, not real-world oriented!!!

I have published the outline for the program on my website for close to a year. It was reviewed in Redmond Magazine online in August 2007 and got favorable reviews. I have proposed it to several universities, publishers, and IT instructors, including a few of the major vendors. All are considering it. Now it is your turn.

As readers of InformIT.com, I propose this certification solution to you in order to garner your feedback for what could potentially breathe new life back into the certification market and satisfy a lot of the current problems and shortfalls in the current strategy.

Genesis

I have based this program on the current market as well as my experiences in IT, and certification and training. I am the guinea pig. What I am recommending is based on the skills I have acquired because of the strategies I have followed. This program is developed around integrated networking, but it could also be applied to other interrelated disciplines as well.

So the issue for me became this: How could we use the best of all the certifications in the market, address the issues that HR folks generate when they post a job with a laundry list of skills and certifications that they have no idea about, and confidently credential folks for a real world internetworking environment so that they have the necessary skills to contribute from day one?

How do we ensure that these candidates are not just book smart but also have the complex skills needed to contribute to an enterprise environment? No enterprise environment is made up of a single vendor’s solutions, so no one vendor’s certification(s) adequately prepares a candidate for the real world.

So what credential would offer potential employers a degree of certitude that a candidate could do the job if they have that one credential?

Additionally, what credential would have enough flexibility to prepare candidates for working in an environment that is migrating to the latest and greatest multivendor solutions, or for working in an environment that has no intention of leaving their 10–15-year-old solutions that are not broke?

The key concept behind this certification plan is this: How do we use what we have, make it better, and make it more appealing and relevant? What I am not in favor of is reinventing the wheel, or (to use one of my own colloquialisms) I don’t want to have to renovate the kitchen in order to cook a simple dinner.

So here is the problem or the need as I see it in IT: We need a flexible, real world, multivendor credential that ensures not just book knowledge but skills in an environment made up of a quagmire of solutions, while leveraging the current vendor certifications without pushing potential candidates away.

My solution is the Master of Integrated Networking. This can be, as I said, a degree, a certificate, or a certification—depending upon who buys into the program.

As a degree, academic centers of learning will benefit. Most academic centers have shied away from vendor certifications in favor of the MIS, the CIS, or similar degrees.

Many students, when leaving school with just these degrees, have found themselves to be at a disadvantage. They have found that those with a degree and a certification or two fare better in the market.

With the Master of Integrated Networking degree, students would not only have a degree but also several vendor certifications, and will have passed a rigorous hands-on practical capstone course, ensuring their skill level.

Offering vendor certifications and a degree makes an academic setting more attractive to those who are seeking to change careers or to advance their skill levels.

As a certification or certificate, for-profit training centers could offer a multivendor training solution that meets the needs of the industry in their geographic area. Centers would have to focus on the real-world needs of their clients, not just one vendor’s solutions for those needs.

Many clients, like me, do not want to be vendor dependent. Centers that offer a multivendor solution will be more attractive to those with internetworking needs.

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