November 8, 2013 2:45 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
On my morning walk today, I had NPR on my earbuds, and heard their preliminary prognostications about this morning’s latest Employment Situation Summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. I’m pleased to say that their pundits proved off on one of two major points: first, they predicted lower than usual job growth numbers in the 100,000 range; and second, they predicted a jump in the unemployment rate, possibly by as much as three-tenths of a percent. The actual results as posted were somewhat encouraging in light of those predictions: new jobs created came in at 204,000 for October at about double what had been projected, while unemployment “only” ticked up by one-tenth of a percent from 7.2 in September to 7.3 in October.
More slow growth mode for October, if slightly better than the pundits’ predictions.
There’s a “however” to consider, though: the reasons for pundits’ predictions came, of course, from the 16-day government shutdown that occurred in October. But here’s what shows up in paragraph two of the summary page in the BLS report:
Among the unemployed, however, the number who reported being on temporary layoff increased by 448,000. This figure includes furloughed federal employees who were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff under the definitions used in the household survey. (Estimates of the unemployed by reason, such as temporary layoff and job leavers, do not sum to the official seasonally adjusted measure of total unemployed because they are independently seasonally adjusted.) [Emphasis mine]
Factoring the “temporary layoff” of 448,000 against job creation of 204,000, it’s easy to understand why the pundits’ predictions turned out to be more dire than the actual results: apparently, they didn’t factor in the category differences between creation of presumably permanent jobs versus temporary furloughs of government employees who kept their permanent positions (and who, according to Congressional resolutions passed during the shutdown, will be paid for their time off in any case).
As I continue to follow BLS reporting of US employment, I’m continually amazed at how various kinds of classification and categorization of workers produces the numbers we see in the monthly reports that agency produces. We should always remember that when you factor in the so-called “discouraged workers” (those unemployed who’ve given up on finding a job of any kind) the unemployment rate in the US is in the low double-digits (10-11 percent by many estimates) rather than the official 7.3 percent reported this month.
The “Information” numbers in Table A-14 of the report (“Unemployed persons by industry and class of worker, not seasonally adjusted“) convey some slightly different news. Data from that sector for October 2012 versus October 2013 shows that unemployment increased from 7.7 percent of an IT workforce of 27.9 million workers in 2013 to 7.9 percent of 27.5 million in October 2013. That shows a loss of 400,000 jobs in the sector over the intervening year, along with a slight uptick in the unemployment rate. To me, this shows that some caution is necessary in assessing job change or promotion prospects for IT professionals, despite more ebullient news about IT employment from lots of other sources of late (including various reports I’ve presented in other blog posts here).
Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see job creation numbers waxing little by little, step by step, month over month. Although we need to break 300-350,000 a month for job growth to overtake unemployment, and move the rate into the 5-6 percent range that represents “full employment” as defined by most economists, it’s better to be taking small steps forward on the growth rate, rather than small steps back. But as I’ve observed many times in my commentary on employment, especially as it relates to IT, it’s still not time to break out the champagne and canapes. Cause for modest cheer is not the same as cause for celebration, after all.
November 6, 2013 3:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Blue Ribbon Techs, as you may or may not know, is one of two companies that is partnering with CompTIA (the other is Canadian company Zylog/Brainhunter) to make digital versions of their certifications available online by request to parties that credential holders authorize to view such information. In practice, this means that those who include special “active graphics” in their resumes, web pages, job applications, and so forth, convey permission to use the Blue Ribbon Tech (BRT) “widgets” to interrogate CompTIA’s certification/credentials databases to check their credentials to whomever clicks the link embedded in the graphic.
This kind of technology is sometimes called digital badging. It refers to creating mechanisms whereby individuals who pass certain courses, earn specific degrees or IT certifications, obtain various licenses, and so forth and so on, can use digital objects (“badges”) in documents to provide proof that what they claim to possess is backed up by an objective, third-party “badge respository.” Further, that repository also attests to a badge’s validity and currency. This is, in fact, the focus of the Mozilla Open Badges project and has produced an emerging standard infrastructure for collecting, storing, maintaining, and reporting on such information.
The Open Badges Wiki is a good place to start digging into details and activities of this development and proselytizing organization.
I had wondered if CompTIA had deliberately avoided participation in the Open Badges initiative, but was cheered to learn from Mr. Kraemer that his developers are presently looking into building the scaffolding necessary to support Open Badges. His group has until now been pre-occupied with handling the vetting, logistics, set-up, privacy/confidentiality, and data collection for background checks, criminal records, and drug testing data related to tying the CompTIA credential look-ups into a variety of job-matching systems for freelance technicians who routinely work with or for large field service operations like those run by IBM, NCR, Dell, HP, and countless others.
I’m happy to learn that what I had interpreted as possible evidence of hostility or indifference to the Open Badge initiative was in fact neither one of those things. Instead, it came from a set of priorities driven by the consumers of those CompTIA digitial credentials who wanted BRT to address matters of perceived higher import than whether or not badging information and format adhered to any industry standards, emerging (as the Mozilla Open Badge initiative is right now) or otherwise. In fact, it looks highly likely that it’s just a matter of time before the CompTIA badging information is made to conform with the Open Badge formats and data representations, now that other, more serious and difficult technical problems have been addressed.
All I say is “Whoopee!” This is the best outcome I could have hope for from my investigations, so I’m quite pleased to report on it.
November 4, 2013 3:12 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Tracy Flynn at TrainingIndustry.com has not only written a thoughtful and informative piece on digital badging, she also provides a link to a Training Industry Quarterly article that explains why creating and maintaining safe and verifiable digital stores (as in storage spaces, not purchase outlets) for education and certification credentials is a good idea who time has come. Flynn’s story is entitled “Digital Badging is Next Generation Certification,” and is also worth a read-through.
With digital badges, people can create and maintain a complete collection of all their current degrees, certificates, and certifications, easily accessible online — at least for those organizations that participate in various badging schemes. [Image Credit: Training Industry Quarterly, Fall 2013]
I blogged about this topic for PearsonITCertification.com (PITC) in July, 2013, in a post entitled “Could a Digital Credentials Clearinghouse Be in the Offing?” Though I’m cheered to read more coverage of this topic, and to perceive a growing consensus that digital badging is both valuable in its own right, and relevant to IT certification credentialing, I’m still concerned that there may be a shake-out period with multiple competing stores for digitial credentials duking it out in the marketplace. As I reported in another blog for PITC later in July, 2013, CompTIA announced on July 23, 2013, that it was partnering with Blue Ribbon Techs and Zylog Systems (Canada) Ltd. “to allow IT professionals to include validation of their CompTIA credentials in their online job profiles” — a key ingredient in the value proposition for digital badging that allow a reference to some credential to include a link that permits prospective employers and other interested parties to validate its authenticity and currency simply by clicking through to a badge repository of some kind.
Despite having launched (and today, having relaunched) attempts to figure out whether or not we’re dealing with dueling information exchange representations or a common standard, I’m still not getting clarity on this overall phenomenon. I’m still digging in, though, and have made inquiries of the CEOs for both Blue Ribbon Techs (Michael Kraemer) and Zylog (John Mehrmann) to try to elicit more details. More on that as it unfolds.
November 1, 2013 8:05 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for a while now, the phrase “Internet of things” (sometimes abbreviated as IoT) is bound to have hit your eyeballs at least once in the past few months. Its frequency of appearance seems to be increasing, and I’m starting to see some impingement even on the IT certification world of late. On Wednesday, in fact, Cisco pushed out a press release entitled “Cisco Empowers Current and Next Generation of IoT Scientists, Engineers, and Innovators,” that alludes to “an upcoming Cisco Specialist Certification to advance skills development in industrial networking.” The idea is that because the information and communication technologies (ICT, a popular European acronym for what we in the USA often call IT) sector is growing so rapidly, that there could be as many as 2 million jobs that need to be filled by 2022. The release projects a shortfall of 8.2% (164,000 jobs) in this arena by that time. It also calls for technical schools, colleges, and universities to up their graduation rates for ICT qualified personnel by 220,000 per year for the period from 2014 to 2022. Cisco, of course, wants to help and is building “a new portfolio consisting of IoT curricula, assessments, and an upcoming Cisco Specialist Certification to advance skills development in industrial networking.”
Imagine a world where most things that you interact with are on the Internet, so you can query and instruct them online.
[Image credit: Shutterstock 148298537]
In this press release, Cisco indicates that it is working to help develop individuals with strong skills in IP networking, “with a focus in automation, manufacturing and engery, and future expansion to include equally transformative industries.” I’m not 100% sure what all this means, though I do understand that a new cadre of talented technical people will be needed to design the hardware and interfaces to hook appliances, controls, and other objects into the Internet, and to build the software that collects and presents data about such Internet-connected things to human users for monitoring, management, instructions, and controls.
To that end, Cisco is doing more than creating a soon-to-be announced Specialist credential. They are also beefing up their Cisco Networking Academy offerings to include IoT elements and coverage. I’m sure this means other IoT related credentials will be in the offing in the more distant (but not too distant) future. I plan to contact the folks at Cisco Training and Certifications to find out more, and to get more details on the upcoming Specialist cert offering, along with some inklings as to what else might lie in the years to come. Stay tuned!
October 30, 2013 1:54 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
From 9 AM to 4 PM, Pacific Standard Time (-08:00 UCT) on November 14, 2013, well-known Windows expert Ed Bott (whose Ed Bott Report for ZDnet provides regular fodder for my blog right here) is teaching an upcoming (and free) Jump Start class on Windows 8.1 for the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). The course page includes a registration link, and provides the complete title for this offering, too:
The blurb for the class reads “New features in Windows 8.1 for the enterprise” and the very brief course outline includes the following bullet items (quoted verbatim):
- Windows 8.1 To Go and Mobility
- Deployment and Manageability
- Mobile Device Management Tools
Instructors will also include as-yet un-named “members of the Microsoft Windows team” in addition to the redoubtable Mr. Bott. Even if your organization doesn’t plan to deploy (or pilot) Windows 8.1 any time soon, this course should still be worth attending not only because the coverage is bound to help set directions and plans for potential use, but also because the price is entirely right.
October 30, 2013 1:36 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This is one case where the picture — or rather, screen capture in this instance — tells an awful lot of the story:
Free training on Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V, and System Center 2012
Although the seats for this class are virtual, not physical, they are still limited in number, so interested parties will want to register for this class sooner rather than later. But don’t worry if you can’t get a seat, because MS routinely posts recordings of these Jump Start classes about 30 days after their scheduled delivery dates. That means that those who miss out on the live version may get an early Christmas present around December 20th, when that recording should become available.
Here are some more particulars on the upcoming class: Microsoft Senior Technical Evangelist Symon Perriman will be teaching. Those who do get in for the live session will also qualify for a free exam voucher for MS exam 70-409 Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center (those vouchers expire on 6.30.2014, but a free voucher is still a free voucher). Visit the Live Events page for this course for a course outline, and more information about its content and coverage.
October 28, 2013 8:40 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This weekend my family took a trip to the DC area to celebrate my Dad’s 90th birthday. We were about two weeks behind his actual nativity, because I’d run into some work-related conflicts. But, better late than not at all, we took a long weekend in northern Virginia and nearby environs to spend time with family, catch up on old times and new, and see some genuine fall foliage on bright and showy display (not something we get too much of down here in central Texas). On Sunday morning, 7 of us piled into my sister’s van to go watch her son compete at a nearby gymnastics meet in Gaithersburg, MD, and also to enjoy a day of gadding about together as a family.
While at the meet I ran into a recent retired Navy veteran who had just completed his 30 years in the service, and moved back to the DC area from Hawaii to re-establish connections with his wife’s family, and to find himself a job in the teeming Washington DC metro area. He’d worked for a decade or more in information warfare roles, so I expected to hear that his job hunt turned into a quick and painless slam dunk. Given his various combat tours, high-level security clearances, and strong, relevant InfoSec experience on the job, I figured he would have his choice of plumb assignments from a nearly limitless list of opportunities with the countless Beltway bandits, consulting companies, and security specialist firms that make themselves at home near the seat of the US government and its intelligence community.
“Not so!” said he. Having entered the service at age 20, and never having completed a college degree or earned a timely or topical InfoSec certification – CISSP was the first target out of his mouth when I allowed as how I knew a little bit about IT certification in general, and InfoSec credentials in particular — he indicated that earning certification was high on his priority list. In fact, he wanted to sign up for a boot camp course on CISSP (a one to two week long intensive training class on CISSP concepts, terminology, and subject matter) but was afraid that with several potential job offers in the offing he’d find himself in a situation of having to demur from a “can you start tomorrow” kind of offer because of making a prior commitment to a bootcamp class.
At the time, I didn’t really have the opportunity to pause and reflect on his situation (we were all watching family members compete on the floor of the gymnasium, each with our own favorites to cheer for), so I didn’t chime in with advice or suggestions. Now that I’ve had time to do that, I have to say that any hiring organization would probably be more pleased than otherwise to hear that somebody they wished to hire for a specific job role related to information security was undertaking a bootcamp on a hot, relevant certification at his own expense on his own time. I can’t be 100% that my intuition is correct, but my intuition does tell me that most such organization would be inclined to say “Fine, we’ll set your start date right after you finish the class, and pass the exam.” How could they not, since they’re getting an employee who’s been made more valuable by taking the time and expending the effort to obtain a high-demand certification between the time of an interview and background check and the extension of a job offer?
This leads me directly to the point of today’s blog as well, as expressed in its title. If you want to get ahead, or develop your career potential and prospects, you have to put in some time and effort, and probably even spend a little of your own hard-earned cash, to help push yourself up to the next level of career attainment and capability. Don’t put off or push back what you can do sooner, even if it means having to delay important stuff — and certainly finding a job is about as important as it gets for a family man living in an expensive part of the country with a family to support, a house to buy, and a civilian career to get underway. Just don’t let any of this stop you from doing what you must to boost your credibility or capability in your chosen field of work. If you do, you’ll end up losing more than you gain in the long run.
October 23, 2013 2:10 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Normally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics posts its monthly employment figures on the first Friday of the month, and occasionally a week later when the beginning of the month falls on or near a Friday. This month, thanks to the US Government shut-down, it’s been more seriously delayed. I’d been checking into the US BLS website on an on-and-off basis, but I found out yesterday that the September employment situation summary was available when commentators started to discuss its contents on a newscast around mid-day yesterday as I was driving in my car.
Another month of modest employment gains shows we’re still in slow growth mode, employment-wise.
Here’s the skinny: employment continues to edge up slightly month-over-month, with a modest increase of only 148,000 jobs for September, 2013. Even so, employment edged down from 7.3 percent in August to 7.2 percent in September (Whoopee!). According to Table A-14, the information sector shows a nice improvement, down from 7.3 percent in September 2012 to 6.6 percent the same time this year (and from 205,000 unemployed to 189,000 unemployed in the sector in those same months). Revisions to earlier months show both losses and gains: the July numbers went down from 104,000 to 89,000, while those for August went up from 169,000 to 193,000, for a net gain of 9,000 over previously reported numbers.
I’m still not seeing any huge rays of hope for the 11.2 million Americans still counted as officially unemployed. Along with another 2-3 million discouraged workers who’ve more or less withdrawn from the workforce, they’re not likely to take much heart from such anemic growth numbers. At 150,000 – 200,000 new jobs per month, we can just about keep up with new entrants to the workforce, which means that whole backlog is likely to experience little or no relief for the foreseeable future. We really need job growth numbers of 300,000 or higher per month to start soaking up this vast reserve of unemployed workers. Keep your fingers crossed. Until a miracle happens, the old, familiar “Hunker down” mentality is likely to persist, among employers and employees alike.
October 21, 2013 2:46 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Last week, the latest CompTIA certification went live, as the Mobile App Security+ exam became available on October 15. This credential seeks to address the need to develop, test, and deliver native iOS or Android applications (the test comes in two flavors, one for each of these market-leading mobile device runtime environments) that are designed and built for security, including also secure network communications and back-end web services in the overall security frame.
As of last week, Mobile App Security+ is up and running.
There’s a strong industry movement afoot at the moment to boost security, not just for mobile applications in particular, but also for the ever-increasing number of web-based applications in everyday use. This applies to a large number of cloud-based applications (and is the typical foundation for Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, offerings) but also to an even more sizeable population of custom code developed in businesses and organizations of all sizes and scales.
I alluded to this overall phenomenon in my Friday blog post right here, entitled “SANS Adds Web App Pen Test Cert to Line-Up,” which makes mention of 9 IT certifications from numerous organizations, all of which seek to boost security for Web-based applications, mobile and otherwise. I’d be very surprised if we don’t see more such certifications popping up on the security landscape, both with mobile and more general application orientations. Why? Because that’s where the real traction in application development, delivery, and deployment is nowadays, and thus also, where the biggest security risks lie (not to mention the added risks inherent to a highly distributed and Internet-based information architecture).