Training and Certification

Rubel Khan's Blog

Making The Right Investments in a Tough Economy

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 1, 2009

Microsoft training and certification help organization realize immediate productivity gains

By Chris Pirie

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The economic climate is dramatically different than it was a few months ago and there’s no doubt that businesses in every industry are being challenged. It’s clear that this is a time when organizations must carefully assess how to best utilize their resources to weather the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Because information technology can help companies reduce costs and operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness by automating processes to do more with fewer resources, the responsibility for achieving new efficiencies often falls on IT departments at just the time when they’re facing a skills shortage.

There are several studies that suggest there will be a significant gap in the next five to ten years between the demand for and supply of IT professionals with the right technical skills. IDC places that gap at 40 percent in some IT disciplines.[1] The availability of trained, qualified IT professionals is also dropping and the number of undergraduates interested in pursuing computer science degrees has declined by 70 percent.[2]

Improving the skills of workers is one area where companies can realize immediate productivity gains without incurring additional costs, because companies don’t need to add headcount, they just need to provide training so they can be more efficient. An IDC Performance Impact Study[3] found that the most important factor in determining the success of IT solutions is the skill of the team managing the technology. Teams that met most or all of their objectives had twice the amount of training as teams that achieved only partial success.

 

 

People who have fully developed their skills through certification are more productive and motivated than their non-certified counterparts. In a customer satisfaction survey conducted for Microsoft, 63 percent of hiring managers felt certified professional were more productive than their non-certified peers.

When all factors that impact team performance—like turnover, motivation, and experience—are considered, training and team skill have the most significant impact. According to IDC, “well-trained teams draw more benefits from their technology investments than undertrained teams and their functional performance is dramatically better.”[4]

Getting “people ready”

Microsoft has always supported the concept of “people ready”—having people trained to implement technology as soon as it’s available. To this end, Microsoft is committed to ensuring that its training and certifications are relevant, immediately applicable and provide validation of an individual’s skills and ability. Further, certification leads a professional through a progression of increasing competency, reflecting that professional growth is a journey, not a destination.

As a leader in the certification industry, Microsoft has spent considerable time and effort listening to the needs to IT professionals, hiring managers and industry experts, and incorporating this feedback into significant improvements in its certification programs that better address the needs of professionals at a time when the IT industry is facing significant challenges.

The value of certification

Recently, we went on a worldwide listening tour to gauge how IT pros, hiring managers, college students and industry workers value the work Microsoft is doing and get their thoughts on how we can improve. Three common themes emerged: industry veterans and newcomers alike want training and certifications that address three needs: relevance, career path and community.

Individuals at all career levels need to see a connection between their education and their job situation or pay scale, which is often related. As professionals grow within their organizations, as they evolve their roles, they need to learn new technologies or abilities to progress. Finally, successful completion of the certification process opens the door to community for networking and further professional growth.

Research confirms that the value of certification extends beyond the certification process itself, and spans the entire process of learning, validation and involvement in a vibrant IT community.

Relevance: validation of real world skills

While some industry critics suggest that certification tests are static in nature, Microsoft is raising the bar to a whole new level using lab-based testing system leveraging Microsoft’s virtualization technologies.

Lab-based testing exams  place testers into fully functioning hosted environments, complete with error messages and dialog boxes. They analyze an individual’s behavior while solving the issues, so they test and validate that individual’s real-world skills. By connecting exams to a real-world experience, certification allows professionals an opportunity to gain hands-on experience that is even more relevant to IT professionals and hiring managers. Certification on Microsoft’s virtualization solutions is a good example.

Microsoft virtualization is a key part of Dynamic IT, an environment that helps organizations respond to business challenges. Microsoft now offers coursework for people to earn certification on virtualization and show they have trained on and demonstrated real-world skills using Microsoft virtualization technologies.

Journey: adding value across all stages of career path

At Microsoft, we want to provide shorter, more direct certification pathways to help IT professionals excel in their specific job roles and on Microsoft technologies. We are looking to reduce the worldwide skills gap through a series of credentials that allow clarity and choice for candidates and help hiring managers clearly distinguish the qualifications of a technical specialist or professional. These credential pathways are:

  • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)
  • Microsoft Certified Master (MCM)
  • Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA)

While the MCTS and MCITP/ MCPD certifications validate “nuts and bolts” skills for Microsoft technologies —specifically “how to” and “why”—the MCM and MCA programs distinguish candidates with deep technical expertise and proven experience. Since introduced earlier this year, more than 320 MCM’s have earned certification, and since the inception of the MCA program, more than 900 candidates worldwide have applied and nearly 200 have earned the Microsoft Certified Architect credential.

Microsoft certifications reflect and validate real-world skills and experiences while improving the performance of IT professionals, developers and information workers. They add value across all stages of an individual’s career path; valuable for job seekers, new and advanced skill building, and upward career growth.

Community: 2.5 million peers

One of the key benefits of certification is affiliation with Microsoft and access to a professional community of peers. Certification draws individuals into the larger community of 2.5 million certified professionals, giving them instant access to a variety of unique resources, like professional tools and opportunities such as resume posting, job searches; professional networking through MCP-specific groups and tools (FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.); special recognition at Microsoft events and eligibility for “ambassador” status (representing Microsoft at local events and user groups); and early access to upcoming Microsoft Press titles through book review club.

Another benefit of the community is in the development of the certification itself. The role of the community in certification is not well known in some areas for example, many don’t realize that as a Microsoft Certified Professional you can participate in the process of building new certifications. Microsoft routinely seeks the advice and expertise from its MCP community in the development and creation of new certifications. . MCPs can also partner with Microsoft professionals and other technical experts in beta exams.

A close affiliation with Microsoft and access to the professional community that surrounds it is the sense of community that is important to certified professionals.

Now is the time to think about skills development

If you are an employer, invest in your people. If you are an employee, invest in your career. Investing in skills development should be a long term commitment, especially if you are an employer trying to do more than make short-term decisions based on the economy, and look at long-term solutions to bridge the IT skills gap. Investing in maximizing skills is critical to maintain an efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. Do more with less. The process of training and certification is a proven way to immediately maximize the effectiveness of IT professionals and delivers immediate productivity gains to IT organizations and their employees.

# # #

Chris Pirie is General Manager of Sales and Marketing for Microsoft Learning.

Sources:

[1] Matt Walker, “Certification at the Entry Level,” Certification Magazine, July 2008

[2] Cushing Anderson, “Worldwide and U.S. IT Certification Training and Testing, 2008-2012 Forecast,” IDC, August 2008, IDC #213828, Volume: 1

[3] ibid

[4] Cushing Anderson, “Worldwide and U.S. IT Education and Training 2008-2012 Forecast: Growth Though Situation Tenuous,” IDC #211332, Volume: 1, March 2008

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One Response to “Making The Right Investments in a Tough Economy”

  1. Suzanne Gilly said

    When you use the phrase “labor shortage” or “skills shortage” you’re speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually have to say is: “There is a labor shortage at the salary level I’m willing to pay.” That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence, the intellectually honest statement.

    If you start raising your wages and improving working conditions, and continue to do so, eventually you’ll have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon.

    Re: Shortage due to retirees: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, people entering retirement age are being forced to work well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce.

    Okay, fine. Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, raise your wages and improve benefits! You’ll incentivize people to self-fund their education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to fund their own education.

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