Some people lie awake at night thinking about writing the Great American Novel, or mentally laying out the award-winning floorplan for the dream home that they will build someday, or possibly just evaluating the arguments in District of Columbia vs. Heller and pondering whether the 5-4 final ruling really did make Americans safer in their own homes. When I lie awake at night, I sometimes think about Tanner vs. Taysom, or Kirk vs. Picard (even though neither of those contentious issues had to be decided by the Supreme Court). (Yet.)
On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, however, I traveled to California to represent Certification Magazine at the annual member meeting of the IT Certification Council. The ITCC is serious about IT Certification. When ITCC members lie awake at night, they probably think about how to create a cheat-proof certification exam, or whether enough business organizations truly understand the value and convenience of digital badging. Maybe if they're really tired they count CCNAs or CISSPs jumping over a fence.
The ITCC is the tech industry thought leader when it comes to certification, and members have a strong commitment both to improving the quality of certification and expanding its role and influence. Among the certification organizations represented at the member meeting were HPE (formerly HP), IBM, Microsoft, Lenovo, Ericsson, GoCertify (that's us), Kaplan, Pearson VUE, PSI Services and The Linux Foundation. Each year, members convene to discuss what they can do, collectively, to make certification better.
As ITCC vice-chair Jim Lucari put it, certification demonstrates that tech professionals have the "knowledge and skills to resolve problems in a unique way." The ITCC wants to carry that message to potential IT employers, as well as continue to advance the cause in other ways.
The importance of making the certification process more secure was a key topic of discussion. Tech professionals who claim certs that they haven't earned, or who use stolen intellectual property to pass exams, undermine the entire rationale of certification as a reliable indicator of employable expertise. Important security issues include exam delivery (are exams, especially when given online, cheat-proof), exam validity (do exams actually measure the skills and knowledge claimed), and exam development (is the development process safe from IP thieves).
Another weighty matter at issue was the importance of keeping certifications relevant. Even people who aren't employed in IT know that technology changes every day. Certification exams have to keep pace, of course, but it's also important that training and education materials are on the same sort or regular refresh schedule. And while many tech professionals rely on certification to stay ahead of the curve, employers don't always understand or appreciate the value of employees' (whether present or potential) certified skills.
Among its other ongoing endeavors, the ITCC frequently publishes white papers that address certification concerns (primarily security-related), promotes exam development best practices, and offers support to organizations attempting to tell a better certification story (I think I just used a 35-cent phrase for "marketing"). The ITCC also encourages productive and thoughtful change in certification through its annual Innovation Award. (There will be a call for submissions coming up soon.)
The ITCC is always looking to expand its membership, so organizations that support certification and want to play a part in making it more impactful are welcome to inquire further. Among many other benefits of belonging to the ITCC, members get to participate in hobnobbery and post-business revels of the highest orders. Talking about certification is apparently thirsty work, since the membership convened at the enjoyably named Dingus McGee's of Auburn, Calif., for dinner and a five-vintage wine sampler.
It was good to connect with like-minded professionals and talk about the future direction of IT certification. Certification Magazine (and GoCertify) will be at next year's member meeting, and we'll be doing our very best to make certification better in the interim.