Certified for success
Do certifications spell success in the ICT sector, or are employers looking for more? And which mix of certifications offers the best chance for success?
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“This would hinder their ability to architect solutions or trouble-shoot. Similarly, if they don’t have industry experience, it could be a challenge to look at the bigger picture and see how their knowledge can ensure that technology is adding value to the business’s profitability. The formula is to have theory that candidates can then apply to real-life scenarios.”
This need for combined experience and certification is one of the main reasons for the networking skills shortage in the Gulf, according to some experts.
“Generally, companies in the Middle East look to recruit mid-level positions from within the region,” says Shelton at SNS. “The issue with this is that often, candidates have the right qualification but not necessarily sufficient experience in applying that qualification in a real world environment. And if they can’t find the person they are looking for within the region, organisations here will tend to keep the job open rather than cover the costs of recruiting internationally.”
Not surprisingly, the local market in qualifications is booming. Rob Morton, manager of support services at solutions provider Axenttech, says it’s crucial for candidates to choose their training centre carefully, and for employers to check out where a qualification has actually come from. He’s been working in the region for more than 20 years and has seen the certification landscape alter considerably during that time.
“You could easily think that one from a particular college or country was better than another, so you have to do your research,” he says.
“Like all companies, we need a variety of skill levels, and the qualifications I seek tend to be more vendor-orientated, although we talk a lot more about PM now, and a certification in that area is usually the result of thousands of hours of experience – it puts a high stress on real life experience. Qualification is often a condition of doing business with vendors in any case. I need to assess the candidate’s ability to do the job and we’re unlikely to get into trouble if they have a vendor certification.
“That said, there are a lot of courses out here, and I only use those that are mentioned or approved by the product vendors themselves. Using local training facilities is the only cost-effective option.”
Morton says it’s important for employers to encourage staff to continue working for qualifications. It goes hand-in-hand with any training programme, he suggests. And recruitment experts agree that employers in the region should be working on this, despite local conditions which can favour a transient work force.
“If a candidate has the right attitude and capacity to develop themselves in a technological environment that is constantly evolving, technical skills can always be acquired through training courses that organisations offer, should they value the professional growth of their staff,” says Hawas at eHosting DataFort.
He suggests that training should be incorporated into every organisation’s annual budget, so that employees can deliver projects more efficiently and successfully.
“Putting a permanent employee through a course to get a qualification is a great attraction tool and way to take on people at a junior level, and build a skilled workforce,” says Charlie Sell at Arrows Group.
“But it isn’t common due to the large amount of contracting and the need for people to hit the ground running to get the work completed fast. However, this is something that employers in the Middle East should be considering in their long-term plans.”
It is also something that should be regularly assessed to make sure that staff are earning qualifications that have a positive impact on the business’s progress as well as improving the employee’s skills set. Job candidates with the highest CCIE or JNCIE (Juniper Networks Certified Internet Expert) qualifications are very rare, according to SNS’s Shelton.
“Generally speaking, professionals will look to diversify and gain new qualifications fairly early on in their career, “he says. “The higher the qualification you hold, the more difficult it is to change. The better employers in the region are fully supportive of helping their staff expand their skills and will often cover the costs of the examinations.
“As for assessing the value of putting an employee through a suitable qualification course, employers need to look at whether the employee is using their newly acquired qualification to deliver on a project. I would advise assigning a more senior member of staff to monitor their progress.”