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Sun 26 Jan 2003 04:00 AM

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Students face dilemmas over vendor certifications

With network vendors struggling against the economic downturn that has hit the industry, the education market has become the focus for vendors looking to boost revenues through certifications.

Vendor certifications|~||~||~|With network vendors struggling against the economic downturn that has hit the industry, many have been searching for ways to either cut costs or develop new revenue streams. As such, the education market has become the focus for vendors looking to boost revenues through certifications.“It is true that vendors are the ones that drive certifications because the academia has fallen behind the times in developing curriculums that are up-to-date and that address current market needs,” says Melad Ghabrial, CEO, Synergy Professional Services.However, certifications are not just a way to boost revenues, they can also help encourage the uptake of products. If an enterprise has a certified Cisco, Extreme or Microsoft professional for example, they are evidently going to be more skilled in using that vendor’s products and more likely to opt for its solutions in future.“The vendors have realised that they have to take the initiative and they have developed programmes that educate people to the technology that is available, help them market their products to clients and have much easier communication lines with end users,” comments Ghabrial.Training companies, however, argue that these certifications are not merely vehicles for driving product uptake. Many courses are based on open standards and having properly skilled and certified staff is essential to any company.“Without education, new technologies cannot be properly deployed or the full potential of the product utilised. [Additionally,] 70-80% of the curriculum is based on open standards, which means that despite the [training] being done on vendor products, the technologies — TCP/IP, Gigabit Ethernet, Voice over IP — implemented are compatible with other products,” says Josef Miskulnig, managing director, Fast Lane.Furthermore, demand for qualified network professionals remains strong, while the shortage of skilled workers has been much publicised. With IT managers also under pressure to rein in costs, retaining and upskilling existing staff is a sensible move.However, with an increasing number of certifications and training programmes in the market, the dilemma for graduates and other professionals is selecting the right course for their skills and interests and, more importantly, enhancing their career potential. Synergy’s Ghabrial advises any potential student to identify their interests and objectives before selecting a course, and to avoid opting for a course just because their friends or colleagues may be doing it.“People have very different needs, it is always advisable to start with an objective in mind — what is the student or participant trying to achieve? What are their goals in life? What are they trying to understand?” he says.“Then [they should] follow those certifications that address these needs and objectives,” Ghabrial continues.In identifying their career objectives and interests, potential students also need to select a career path in terms of the technology they wish to pursue. “Our recommendation is to chose the certification path related to the technology people are interested in pursuing — operating systems, database, programming, networking and so on,” says Miskulnig.While Miskulnig also recommends students seek career advice from training houses, he recognises the potential pitfalls in this as a result of the “bums on seats” mentality that exists in certain parts of the certification market.“Proper consultation is a requirement for any serious training company. Unfortunately, most training companies look at selling seats [certifications] rather than guiding clients through their education process,” he explains.This mentality, combined with the increasing number of courses, has led to a larger number of paper-certified professionals entering the market. These so-called professionals often lack practical skills and may even have been coached solely to pass an exam. To counter this problem, training companies advise vendors to carefully monitor companies that are offering their courses.“In our field it is important to uphold and maintain the standard, credibility and value of a qualification through quality control. The course firstly has to be applicable to the market, and the exam an accurate test of understanding,” says Lisa Rutherford, general manager of The Network Center.“The vendor or institution backing the degree has to administer quality control to this as per a product, using licensed and professionally certified education providers to deliver knowledge transfer to a consistently high standard,” she adds.||**||

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