Why IT training is important

In the
current economic climate, the fight is on to make a persuasive case for
investing in IT training. Nic Paton looks at the arguments.

HR
professionals will be familiar with the line manager moan about how they have spent
time, money and effort training someone only for them to leave for a higher
paid job with a competitor.

Yet,
according to a study by the US Computing Technology Industry Association
(CompTIA) and IT e-learning specialist Prometric, training is exactly what
companies need to be doing to instil staff loyalty and improve performance.

A
contradiction? Not according to Lutz Ziob, vice-president of certification at
CompTIA. Despite the economic slowdown in Europe and the US, skills shortages
continues to be an acute issue for IT firms.

The
lure of certification

As
is in teaching and accounting, the holy Grail of IT training IT is
certification. This is an ongoing, formal training process that ensures an employee
is qualified to use a particular set of skills or knowledge.

Certification
programmes are often supervised by a certifying agency or professional
association. Certification can give an employee a critical competitive edge in
their field and the jobs market as a whole.

"In
this environment, certification and training can catapult an IT professional’s
career," says Ziob.

"Training
and certification provide a viable pathway for entry into IT for untrained and
non-certified individuals. They also significantly increase the value of IT
professionals to their organisation, during a time when many industries and
employees are feeling the pain of an economic slowdown," he adds.

Do
certified people move on?

The
survey of 18,000 IT managers, certification candidates and certified
professionals, published in October 2001, found 71 per cent of those polled
said they would stay with their employer if they were better qualified, despite
becoming more valuable in the jobs market.

Only
10 per cent of certified professionals sought training to find another job.

But
the number achieving certification declined from 74 per cent in 1999 to 58 per
cent in 2001.

This
was evidence of the huge skills shortage in the sector, with 42 per cent of
managers saying certified staff leaving their organisation was a major drawback
to certifying employees, said CompTIA. But fewer certified professionals (29
per cent) agreed with this assertion.

Since
11 September, the economic downturn has resulted in more IT professionals
coming on to the jobs market, but the overall picture of the skills shortage is
unchanged, says Bala Swaminathan, certification business development manager at
CompTIA.

Quality
benchmark

In
fact, with more people hunting for jobs, having certification has proved a
distinct advantage. Those with such qualifications stand out and can point to a
basic level of competence, he argues. Also, managers hiring specialist IT staff
– who may not have an IT background themselves – can use it as a quality
benchmark.

"What
certification offers is a challenge and a justification for staying with a
company. Certification is a reliable predictor of employee knowledge and
success," says Swaminathan.

Companies
that fail to offer ongoing certification training not only have staff with a
poorer skills set but run the risk of employees leaving once they realise they
are not being offered the same opportunities to learn as their peers are
receive, he warns.

Lack
of an ongoing training and certification programme often leads to decreased
productivity, increased staff turnover and lower morale, the survey found.

Nearly
two-thirds (64 per cent) of IT managers polled said they saw a higher level of
service as a key benefit of having certified staff, followed by a competitive
advantage (59 per cent) and increased productivity (57 per cent).

In
an increasingly tough economic environment, the competitiveness of
organisations is often measured by the quality of their people. Hiring,
selection and firing will come down to a skills checklist – retaining those who
are valuable and losing those who are not.

"In
terms of HR, certification can act as a weeding tool, weeding out those
candidates who do not have the necessary skills sets," says Swaminathan.

Links
www.comptia.org
www.prometric.com

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