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Foundational IT Skills Certification on the Rise

By Ray Kelly, Certiport CEO


In high schools, technical schools, and community colleges, students are increasingly turning to certifications to prove they have the basic IT skills employers now expect.

Two years ago, Emily Daubert was attending SAIT Polytechnic in Alberta, Canada, where she studied Administrative Information Management. She took a course relevant to her degree that led her to certify to prove her foundational technology skills with the Microsoft Office Specialist certification (MOS). Emily did so well on the exam that she achieved the title of national champion in Canada for Microsoft Word and Excel. Emily was invited to Park City, Utah to compete in the Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office, winning the gold medal for Microsoft Word.

As a result, Emily was recognized nationally for her accomplishment, and was noticed by a potential employer. CCI Learning Solutions, one of our Canadian partners at Certiport, hired Emily as a Client Operations Specialist. As a result of the Microsoft Office Specialist certification, doors of opportunity opened for Emily that otherwise would not have without certification.

Today, students all over the world are discovering how important foundational IT skills are in the workplace, and how certification can help them further their career. U.S. News and World Report recently reported on five skills everyone needs to have on a resume - Microsoft Excel, Web Development, Adobe Creative Suite, a foreign language, and Google Analytics. The article reiterated what I have been seeing in the marketplace for years – no matter what field or job title an individual is seeking, they need to be familiar with these popular workplace software programs and they need basic technology skills.

There are certification exams to address each of those skills listed (Microsoft Office Specialist, Adobe Certified Associate, Certified Internet Web Professional), plus many, many more. Most areas of IT certification for in-demand skills are growing, but the strongest growth is coming from foundational or basic IT skills. IDC, the organization that tracks and monitors the IT industry, estimates the size of the Global IT education market at $24.3 billion in 2012, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 3.2%.

Whether an individual is preparing for a career in Administrative Information Management, like Emily Daubert, or as a nurse, salesperson, or accountant, they need basic IT skills. We live in an increasingly complex and competitive world in which there are high expectations for our educated workforce. The high unemployment rate has not created the talent surplus that many expected, and many jobs go unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates. Certification fills an important gap by both preparing individuals for college and the workforce and by validating their skills. Certification validates computing excellence, in-depth knowledge, and real-world skills. It differentiates and elevates the individual from the crowd.

These foundational certifications are being offered at high schools, community career centers, community colleges, or any institution of higher learning. For instance, Warren County Middle School in North Carolina sees the value of certifying young students on core IT skills and requires every student complete the Certiport Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³). Individuals looking to get certified should start by asking their school or employer if they offer the certification they desire. If not, they can visit any of the linked certifications above and finding a testing center nearby to take the exam.

In the modern world, earning a degree to demonstrate competence isn't enough anymore – workers have to prove that they have the specific skills to fill job openings. Certification is arguably the single best solution for verifying skills attainment and mastery. Additionally, companies are looking for greater return on their software investment. With a certified and skilled employee, that investment pays significant dividends. Technical certifications are distinguishing individuals and companies in today's advanced society.

Ray Kelly is a global advocate for the value of technology-enabled education in raising economic and social standards. He currently is the President and CEO of Certiport, the world's leading provider of computer literacy skills training and credentialing programs.