Taking stock after three years of renewed publication
Posted on
July 21, 2016

This feature first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

The future of IT is in good hands.

In early 2014 I wrote a piece for Certification Magazine titled "Rising Generation." In the article I expressed my belief that the future of IT training and certification was in good hands. I came to this conclusion by visiting with instructors and students around the country. It was a great experience hearing their views and ideas on IT. More importantly, it was inspiring to see their dedication to teaching, learning, and reaching for their dreams.

For nearly 20 years, this publication had been the leading independent voice of the certification industry, publishing cutting-edge articles and advice for IT students and instructors. For a number of reasons, Certification Magazine ceased putting out a print edition in 2008 — and the industry was the poorer for it.

In 2013, GoCertify was fortunate enough to purchase Certification Magazine and CertMag.com. We immediately began putting together a team that could re-establish the print edition — as well as many other things. Since that time, GoCertify has grown along with the certification industry. We presently publish print and digital editions of Certification Magazine on a quarterly basis.

We have also expanded and enhanced our two most popular websites: CertMag.com and GoCertify (gocertify.com). In 2015, we made our first foray into international markets when we brought GoCertify India (gocertify.in) online. We've also added talented and dedicated staff members who, in addition to their daily duties, regularly speak and write on happenings in the industry.

IT is people

One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is learning about the instructors and students involved with certification. Their stories are truly inspiring and it's been a pleasure publishing features on them and their certification journeys. I wish I could write about all of them; unfortunately, time and space prevent me from doing so.

I will mention a few of the students and instructors we have been privileged to know and write about over the last several years. Some of our readers are sure to remember them. Johnny Carrera walked away from a high-paying tech career to teach IT to kids at Holmes High School in San Antonio, Texas.

Another dedicated teacher is Bryan Mecklenburg, manager of the Technology Certification Program for Goodwill Industries in Grand Rapids, Mich. Mecklenburg and his staff give hope to those who need it most, preparing individuals with disabilities to pass CompTIA's A+ certification exam and find full-time IT employment.

I still think fondly of our friend Marvin Schildknecht, a cowboy who taught IT and inspired students for more than a decade in Platte City, Mo.

Then there are students like Monica Martinez, an immigrant single mother of two who learned English and earned a CompTIA A+ certification. Before getting into IT, she made $150 a week working 50 hours in a deli. She now works on the help desk of a bilingual education organization and is able to provide for herself and her children.

Alex Ehret is ranked No. 4 in the world for sparring in taekwondo. Ehret also got himself a fistful certifications — and now runs his own computer repair business.

Good things to come

Peeps doin' it in modern office with laptops

It has been an exciting three years, and the future is looking even better for Certification Magazine, and especially for certifications and the people earning them. Our annual salary survey shows that an increasing number of people are experiencing an uplift in their careers and their personal situations because they have put in the hard work to become certified.

There are currently millions of certified individuals in the U.S. and across the world, and even more who are presently studying for certification exams. This includes entry-level certifications like CompTIA's A+ (held by more than 1 million IT professionals) all the way up to such heavy-duty acronyms as CISSP, CCIE, MCSE, RHCA, VCDX and so forth.

With the advent of the Internet of Everything and cloud computing, the need for certified professionals is greater than ever. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the global market for IT (hardware, software, services and telecommunications) is a massive $3.8 trillion. The United States alone accounts for 28 percent of that, slightly more than $1 trillion.

A market like that is going to require a great many skilled individuals to fill its jobs. In fact, one of the most difficult aspects of an IT manager's job is finding enough certified people to fill all employment openings. According to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights, in the fourth-quarter of 2015 alone, U.S. businesses posted job notices for approximately 807,450 important core IT jobs — an increase of 39 percent over the same quarter in 2014.

Although the IT industry currently employs more than 11 million individuals in technical (e.g., software developers, network administrators, etc.) and non-technical (e.g., finance, HR and marketing) occupations, there is an abundance of opportunity for trained and certified individuals. Even better news is that IT has one of the highest median wages of any sector.

While IT may not be the largest industry sector in the U.S. economy — yet — it does exceed the industries of legal services, automotive, airline, and motion pictures to name a few. And it's continuing to increase in size and influence.

Since 2000, IT is the one sector of the economy that has had the greatest impact on business, consumers, and all other industry sectors. In fact, it's impossible to think of an industry that hasn't been made stronger and more efficient by using IT. Every facet of our modern world, including banking, transportation, manufacturing, energy, travel, communications, health, entertainment and a host of other industries, has forever been altered for the better by IT.

Lessons learned

Education in particular is one industry that is being rapidly improved by IT in terms of content, accessibility, convenience and cost. This is especially true in higher-education, where the one-size-fits-all approach no longer applies.

U.S. college students are no longer hewing to the traditional model of 18-19 year olds sitting in lecture halls and living on campus. The majority of them, 56 percent, are now female and a full 47 percent are age 23 or older. Roughly 62 percent work either fullor part-time, and 28 percent have children they care for while attending school.

Perhaps most surprising of all is the change in the learning environment. While 73 percent of college students still receive all of their instruction in a classroom setting, an amazing 13 percent are learning only online, and another 14 percent are doing so in a blended situation that combines classroom and online instruction. The big driver behind all these changes in education is IT and accompanying certifications.

There is also an IT youth-movement, as high school and middle-school students are increasingly earning certifications in class. An increasing number of schools, like Goshen High School in Goshen, Ind., offer classes in technology and train students to not only earn certifications, but to help defray the cost of computer repairs for the school.

Although a college degree is helpful, it's no longer a strict requirement for employment. Indeed, more companies are requiring certifications for IT positions. More organizations are also focusing on developing their in-house tech talent. Companies are realizing the importance of getting the right mix of technology and tech talent.

Hiring third-party experts as solution providers and service managers is expensive, in some cases prohibitively so. To alleviate this situation, more organizations are opting to train younger workers to handle their IT challenges.

It's not just small and mid-size companies that see the value of training in-house talent either. In 2015, Fortune 500 retailer Target announced that it would be reducing its reliance on outside IT services by hiring and training more than 1,000 new IT workers. Management feels this move will give the company "greater speed and agility," along with the advantage of having staff that thoroughly know Target's business model.

The way forward

For three years now, we here at GoCertify have enjoyed publishing Certification Magazine and bringing you, the reader, the best articles and information on certification. You're the reason we get out of bed in the morning, and we consider it a privilege to assist you on your certification journey.

Corridor with light bursting in

Certification is a great way for anyone to improve their IT skill set and pursue a rewarding career. Presently there are more than 1,700 IT certifications available to those willing to work for them, and with the advent of the Internet of Everything (IoE) and cloud computing, I suspect that there will be even more coming soon.

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, once said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." I couldn't agree with Yogi more — it is difficult to predict what will come. But the best predictor of the future is the past, or as archeologist and writer Edward Weyer, Jr. said, "The future is like a corridor into which we can see only by the light coming from behind."

By the light of all that is behind us, I'm sanguine about the future of IT certifications. I suspect most people feel the same. We may be surprised, but I don't think we will be. After all, if the students around the world pursuing IT certifications have taught us anything, it's that nothing is impossible, perhaps merely improbable.

About the Author

Rocky Steele is vice president of business development for TestOut Corporation. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Gonzaga University School of Law.

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