The last 10 years have been phenomenal for the world of Information Technology. The majority of the world no longer sees having a laptop, an email address or an Internet connection as a luxury, but as a necessity. 5 years ago, choosing not to have a website had no bearing on a firm’s corporate image. Today, the majority of the world turn to their browsers when they need to understand a product or service.
In Zambia, the last 5 years have ushered in Fibre Optic Internet links, have resulted in businesses like Alibaba, eBay and many others to directly open up their platforms to the Zambian Market. From an educational perspective, virtually every institution offering formal education now offers some kind of qualification in technology and that’s remarkable. There has to be some kind of model in place that feeds this growing demand for qualified professionals.
However, while that has been gradually evolving, the world of professional certifications has been unfolding even more rapidly, creating this dichotomy when young professionals feel they must make a choice between getting that diploma from Evelyn Hone College, or going over to the ICT Resource Foundation for a 5 day certification bootcamp.
But isn’t this a false representation of reality? Can’t this be equated to a person feeling they must make a choice between choosing to breathe and to eat?
Certifications find their root in manufacturers of software and hardware realizing that operations manuals weren’t as effective as they would have hoped, and end users spent more times calling in to ask for support for mundane things they should have known if only they had thoroughly read through the manual. Also, as software became more complex, the learning curve became a lot steeper, to the point that sales became affected. Corporations like Microsoft, Cisco, Redhat, Adobe, etc., responded to this threat, by building education models to help their clients make the most of the features and functions of their products, and by having certified individuals, businesses would have access to discounts and other incentives. Some of these certifications became so successful that the recruitment industry began to slip them into vacancies.
The purpose of an education program should be to impart skills and abilities that someone can use in a myriad of scenarios. It’s not about teaching answers, but rather about teaching someone how to engage these abilities in investigating a problem to find answers. So, if you are fresh out of high school, or have some certificate from a little-known college and are thinking about going on a certification spree, ask yourself this: What will that Cisco Certification do for you in an environment where Routers and Switches used are From Juniper, Brocade or Extreme Networks? What will that Microsoft Certification do for you in an environment where the Servers are based on Ubuntu Linux? What will that SQL Certification do for you in an environment where NoSQL has been implemented?
So, if you are fresh out of high school, or have some certificate from a little-known college and are thinking about going on a certification spree, ask yourself this: What will that Cisco Certification do for you in an environment where Routers and Switches used are From Juniper, Brocade or Extreme Networks? What will that Microsoft Certification do for you in an environment where the Servers are based on Ubuntu Linux? What will that SQL Certification do for you in an environment where NoSQL has been implemented?
The role of Certifications should only be to help us refine knowledge that we already have, knowledge acquired through a traditional education system and experience. So, go get your Diploma, your Degree or Masters from a reputable institution, get yourself an internship somewhere and allow yourself to figure out what kind of IT best fits your skills, then look at what certifications you can take to validate you strengths.
2 thoughts on “Should IT certification be an alternative to traditional education?”
Well thought out article. Certs should not be considered an alternative to traditional education. Best consider them supplements to academic qualifications that provide the ideal foundation for any professional.
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