Invest in your future
Is education a sound investment?
If you work in the IT field, it's very much a case of adapt or fall by the wayside. The IT landscape is evolving rapidly, the advent of Industry 4.0, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and the technologies that accompany them are forcing IT professionals to acquire new skills and knowledge all of the time. And, while much of this is learnt on the job as they go along, the value of having a proper certification becomes particularly apparent when the individual applies for a promotion or transfer to another division.
Juanie Newby, Group Marketing Director, CTU Training Solutions, says: "While having workplace experience and the ability to perform a task is a good start, there's no certificate supporting those skills. On the other hand, you have the person who has a college or university qualification but no workplace experience. How do you compare apples with oranges, which is what this quandary requires? The ideal candidate is one that has a combination of workplace experience and accredited certification."
There's increasing awareness among IT professionals of the value of continually updating their formal certification, with 81% of IT professionals taking a training course of some sort in the past 12 months, according to Pearson's 2017 Value of Certification Survey.
Newby says: "We're seeing growing demand for certification courses because people no longer have three or four years to dedicate to getting a qualification. In addition, if they run out of funds halfway through a longer-term course, they walk away with no qualification whatsoever, whereas annual certifications are more affordable, more achievable and increase your job prospects."
Gain a workplace advantage
Achieving certification in your field of choice requires an investment of both an individual's time and money, while the rewards they reap are manifold. According to the Pearson survey, the leading benefit cited by 64.9% of respondents was a positive impact on their professional image and reputation. Other benefits listed included:
* Moved into a career in IT (22.6%);
* Helped get a salary increase (17.7%);
* Found a job (15.5%); and
* Got a promotion (12.5%).
Over and above the benefits listed above, those surveyed said achieving certification helped them to perform complex tasks more confidently and improved the ratings they received in performance reviews. In addition, 23% of respondents to the survey said they had received a salary increase of up to 20% on earning a certification.
Newby adds: "When you consider the results of the survey, it becomes clear that employees who invest in upskilling themselves have a distinct advantage in the workplace. They're more likely to be identified for promotion and are viewed as an asset to the business."
However, the onus isn't necessarily on the employee to carry the cost of achieving certification. "We're seeing an increase in companies using the promise of further development to attract and retain IT skills," says Newby. "In some instances, the company will pay some, if not all, of the fees associated with attaining certification in order to ensure a skilled workforce. This enables businesses to develop the IT skills they require in-house instead of having to employ additional resources or outsource certain functions."
She goes on to add that vendor certifications are more relevant and focused on the future possibilities of IT in itself than more generic IT courses.
However, before signing up for any IT course, Newby says the following five questions should be considered:
* Does the training provider offer relevant up-to-date international certifications aligned to your qualification, thereby increasing your potential job prospects or entry into the market?
* Is the qualification you're considering aligned to the needs of the market?
* Does the course focus on the latest technological trends?
* Is the training institute able to offer the hands-on skills required in the field?
* Does the qualification prepare you for future jobs?
The last item on the list is particularly relevant, says Newby. "Current trends show that jobs that exist today could potentially not exist in five years' time. There's increasing emphasis on cloud, automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, while networks and applications are tying everything together. While there's no clear prediction of exactly which skills will be in demand in the future, it's a safe bet that IT is going to play a key role going forward."