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Which certification do you need?

The ict@innovation programme is currently looking into different options for organizing trainings that lead to an internationally recognized FOSS certification. This could be done at different levels: * desktop certification (like Open ICDL, Open Office ..) * system admin certification (like LPI, or vendor-certifications like RedHat, Ubuntu ..) * specific application related certifications (like PHP, MySQL ...) We are interested to learn about your needs. 1. From a market perspective: What skills are most in demand from the client side? And which certification would serve as seal of quality in your national ICT market and would help to gain confidence from clients? 2. From a training demand perspective (which is of course related to the market): What type of training + certification would people be interested to invest time and money in? What do you think?
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Hi, I just see your initiative and it's great! Based in Senegal, we are involved as contributor in an opensource project (maarch.org). For us first certification for specific application can be interesting (PHP mainly) such as training in methodology nor ISO 20000.
Regards, KSY

I would ask the question from a slightly different perspective:

"what do you need from a certification?"

This question needs to be asked of three main stakeholders:
- People who may be certified
- The companies that would hire certified people
- Training and publishing companies

Most current IT certification is driven by the needs of the training and publishing companies, not to mention makers of hardware and software as a tool to "lock in" students to a vendor-specific way of doing things.

There are many ways to approach certification, and many existing resources. There are ways to use existing foreign certification tools and products in the context of a made-in-Africa program that suits local needs. (For example, to my knowledge none of the existing Linux certifications treats multi-lingual administration as a subject worthy of testing.)

In other words, not everything has to be re-invented. FOSS philosophy encourages the building upon the existing work of others in order to create better and more relevant applications. This ethic can apply to education and certification as well as it applies to software development :-)

Evan Leibovitch
Toronto, Canada

Hello Evan.

From a training company point of view I would say the following:
1. A certification that covers a broad spectrum of IT topics. Starting from the desktop right trough to system administration so I can use only one certification body to work with rather then 2 or 3.
2. Certification is done in such a way that it can be used in a training environment, topics should not be scattered all over the place and so forth.
3. Certification should be easily adopted (or build upon) to International standards like NQF and so forth used by governments so that the certification can count points towards country specific grading and qualifications.
4. A certification that stays up to date with new technologies and make redundant very old technologies.
5. A certification that offer training companies a way to be certified to give the certification training and make available training material to be used, training quality systems, trainer certification and so forth.
6. A certified trainer program that can train and qualify trainers.

My concerns as a training company comes down to to much red tape in the case of the Red Hat certification and to little control over training companies in the case of the LPI. In the Red Hat certification you know that if you know the work as given in the training material well the student will pass. With the LPI however the training material is not necessarily always complete and questions come about that it is not covered in training material.

Now the next concern then is having a water downed certification or a certification that does not make students "think" about question answers because of points I made with the above concern :-)

As a student a sertification must:
1. Mean something in the industry.
2. Have plenty of resources available that will help him to pass the exams by either self study, competent e-learning systems and competent training companies.
3. Have a cost effective certification.
4. A certification body that can act as a support (administration support) and complains body.
5. A certification that can make examination easily available.

I must say I like the log book system of the ICDL but have concerns regarding the control of that certification validity. I like the LPI system where all exams are marked by the certification body itself. A log book maybe with a place where a sticker (posted with the certificate) with maybe a bar code and so forth.

I hope this will bring about some discussion and look forward to remarks on this. And yes, I am a big boy and can handle criticism :-)

Regards.

Kin

Hello Kin,

I hope I can address some of your comments, at least from my perspective. None of this is criticism; indeed, such exchanges are an important part of InWent's crafting a certification strategy going forward.

I will try to address at least some of your points. My own perspective is that the primary role of a skills certification is to provide a mutually identifiable standard of achievement that is respected by practitioners and those who would hire them.

A certification that covers a broad spectrum of IT topics. Starting from the desktop right trough to system administration so I can use only one certification body to work with rather then 2 or 3.

That may be too much to ask for. The diversity of applications, the job tasks and indeed the testing methodologies may be very different between, for instance, a certification for system administrators and one for users of an office suite.

Certification should be easily adopted (or build upon) to International standards like NQF and so forth used by governments so that the certification can count points towards country specific grading and qualifications.

The problem is that NQF -- and others like it -- are not international standards. IT certifications should target such national guidelines, but rarely do since most of them exist to serve the goals of software and hardware vendors.

My concerns as a training company comes down to to much red tape in the case of the Red Hat certification and to little control over training companies in the case of the LPI.

In the case of Red Hat, certification is primarily used to drive revenue for Red Hat. Training and materials and certification is big business for them.

In the case of LPI, they choose the "free market" approach to certification. They don't care how someone attained their skills -- taking a course, watching webcasts or just experimenting with a home computer. All that matters is that the candidate demonstrates they meet the skills standard by passing the exams.

While there may be value to "approved by LPI" designations, this approach requires that training centres(and publishers of materials) build a reputation. Ultimately it results in better choices for the people being certified.

As a student a certification must:
1. Mean something in the industry.

That essentially means that both the student and their potential employer need to trust the certification's ability to measure and prove skills.

2. Have plenty of resources available that will help him to pass the exams by either self study, competent e-learning systems and competent training companies.

Or by user groups, community-driven documentation and well-published criteria.

3. Have a cost effective certification.

Unfortunately that term is too subjective. I prefer to use the term "accessible". Does the exam cost too much to justify taking it? Do you have to travel to another city to take it? Can you get the jobs you want without certification? Does the certification exist to create a limited elite, or does it aim to allow all practitioners to prove their abilities?

I must say I like the log book system of the ICDL but have concerns regarding the control of that certification validity. I like the LPI system where all exams are marked by the certification body itself. A log book maybe with a place where a sticker (posted with the certificate) with maybe a bar code and so forth.

There are many approaches, and many are needed because the different kinds of applications used.

For instance, you cannot reasonable test whether someone knows how to print a document from a GUI application, using a multiple-choice question.

Evan Leibovitch
Xunil Corporation
Toronto, Canada

My thinking was to have a certification which uses open source technologies as a case study.

eg. Certificate in web apps Programming with PhP, Python etc
Certificate in Database admistration with Postgres, Mysql etc
Cerfification in Object Oriented programming with PHP etc
Certificate in MVC architecture (and others) with PhP etc
Certificate in Office Application/Automation with Open Office
Certificate in application development with openJDK etc

just thinking after all your inputs

I appreciate the comments by my (almost) namesake. We have been trying to diversify our training offerings from just LPI to others like OpenICDL, PHP, MySQL etc. One of the biggest issues is cost. This really stands in the way of having a lot of people to certify their skills. By cost I mean all costs involved from the trainer being approved by the certifying body to the student attending classes, sitting the exam etc.

For example, it takes a lot of money to get approved to offer PHP and MySQL certifications. Bot of these are controlled by the respective companies, which of course see a source of revenue, as does Microsoft and Red Hat with their certifications.

While it is costly for the individual student (the trainers costs will also be passed on to the student), it also leads to forex leaving poor countries especially in Africa and Asia. This is not good for development and poverty alleviation.

During Idlelo2, I advocated for the establishment of affordable Africa-based certifications that will mean that no money leaves Africa in the name of buying certifications.

Another example is the OpenICDL. Its a very good idea but still unaffordable for the majority of trainers who are in the SME sector. Point is, big training companies will always go for the big certifications because there is a lot of money to be made out of them, as they are already entrenched in the market and therefore in demand. The cost requirement for us to start offering OpenICDL is quite high, considering that we would like to offer others, which also require large intial capital outlay.
Back to African certifications. This is not impossible. After all we have Ubuntu, which is an African distro. Why cant we divorce Ubuntu certification from the LPI, and add to it some for of Office certification? Others like development tools, security etc can be built around it. This can then be implemented on the whole continent with support from Universities and Governments, with national FOSS bodies like the (Linux Professional Association of Kenya) taking care of local examinations. I am thinking about other bodies like Canonical, Commonwealth of Learning, Inwent and DANIDA which can support this initiative.

My main point is this. Microsoft, CISCO, Redhat etc are companies that will ably support and market their certifications and make tonnes of money out of them. At the same, this means that there will always be a steady flow of certified individuals in their products and therefore a firm foothold in the market. On the other hand, who owns Linux and Open Source?

That has always been my thinking.

Evans Ikua
Chairman,
LPA-Kenya

I am most concerned about the concept that certification is passing an written exam. I see a trend in companies shift their responsibilities by trying to outsource skills training to education and training institutions. These institutions are unable to provide the work environment required to provide the proper training. To function effectively in the work place I would argue one needs to develop some of the following important skills:

• understanding users and their needs
• a service mentality
• time management
• a good work ethic
• workflow control
• experience maintaining existing systems
• understanding an organization
• experience with implementing a system
• design skills

I would like to see certification tied in with work experience and having to ensure that the work place provides the correct environment and is in a place to assess the competencies required for certification.

If we wish to promote FOSS, we need to develop a training and certification that the industry can rely on. However industry has to come to the party because they need to provide a vital component of the training that is the workplace experience.

My view is that certification should consist of a much more comprehensive set of competencies that is broader than FOSS and that includes evaluation in a workplace environment.

I suspect that is debate is somewhat broader than what is being considered here and will not go into more detail unless there is more interest.

Conrad Mueller

The following sites offer "braindumps" of all LPI questions and answers - this is a cause for concern when it comes to offering LPI certification as a programme standard:

charged for:
http://www.brain-dumps.net/brain_dumps.asp?cert_id=19&cert_name=LPIC,%20...
http://www.xcerts.com/ven_exams.php?vid=LPI

free of charge:
http://verflucht.wordpress.com/2007/09/30/lpi-answers-and-questions-i-al...

For a FOSS/Linux exam to be reliable and relevant, it should be delivered in the form of a practical test, similar to the Red Hat testing model.

  I believe certifications need to bring about a better awareness and application of ICT in different business activites. Certifications need to address all levels of understanding of ICT and all applications of the business world. People from different walks of life should have something to interest them in a certification programme.

As for me I prefer to have certifications on object oriented software design, and implementation. PHP would be my best preference. 

I highly support your idea of having something which will be very valuable to our daily life of solving different challenges around us and even assisting our colleagues enjoying life through the use of ICT. The area you have mention are real good to be certified. 

The issue of certifications is not simple as we are thinking! Our own context should highly be considered.

Let us focus on the questions why? to whom? how? when etc. then certification should support at least a complex network of different discipline within our own society for the future development of the Nation.This will assist in shaping an individual to interpret correctly his or her environment in reinforcing the learning objectives and hence to be in a  position to make an evaluation of the used/applied procedures


There are two general types of professional certification: some are valid for lifetime, once the exam is passed. Others have to be recertified again after a certain period of time. Also, certifications can differ within a profession by the level or specific area of expertise they refer to. For example, in IT Industry there are different certifications available for Software Tester, Project Manager, and Developer. Similarly, the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology offers three certifications in the same profession, but with increasing complexity.

 

Certification does not refer to the state of legally being able to practice or work in a profession. That is licensure. Usually, licensure is administered by a governmental entity for public protection purposes and certification by a professional association. However, they are similar in that they

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