March 9, 2012 2:45 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
ongoing employment trend remains slow slow slow; March 2012 BLS Employment Situation Summary continues slow improvement
OK, so this month the guys at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (the BLS of this blog’s title) threw us a slight curveball: Instead of posting their numbers on the first Friday of the month, as they so often do, they are posting those numbers today on the second Friday instead. But though the date may be different this month, the ongoing trend isn’t off at all. Another slight jump in jobs — 227,000 for February, with the majority of the action in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and mining — with unemployment holding steady at 8.3 percent.
Header for the March 9, 2012 EmpSit Summary
There is one nice little positive surprise in this month’s numbers, however: the BLS recast its employment numbers for December 2011 and January 2012, both jumped up a bit. For December, the increase was 20,000 (203K to 223K, about 8.97%); for January 41,000 (243K to 284K, about 14.4%). Numbers revisions happen all the time, but it’s nice when they also reflect an upward trend.
Just to keep readers from busting out the party hats, and declaring early happy hour on this rainy Friday (in the Austin, TX, area where rain itself is pretty good news these days) I’ll throw a dampener on this good news. The first-time unemployment claims for the week ending March 3 came out yesterday and showed an increase of 8,000 claims over the preceding week. But that total number — 362,000 — is still below the magic 400,000 number at which economists believe that economic recovery becomes more problematic here in the USofA. The less volatile four-week moving average (which adds all claims for the last four weeks, then takes the average) is somewhat lower at 355,000.
What does it all mean? Things are still getting better, but only slowly, slowly. This has been our trend since last fall, when slight improvement really announced itself as the “new normal.” Considering other possible alternatives, we’ll take it!
March 7, 2012 2:21 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
(ISC)2 finally catches up with standard exam delivery practices
, (ISC)2 to offer all exams through Pearson VUE
According to the following press release “(ISC)2 to Complete Final Stages of Computer-based Testing for All Its Certification Exams,” the best-known information security certifications — including the CISSP and SSCP — will migrate to computer-based testing on June 1, 2012. After a successful pilot test at Pearson VUE testing centers in Latin America, the organization is preparing to roll out all of its exams at Pearson VUE testing centers world-wide this summer.
Until now, it’s been necessary for (ISC)2 cert candidates to register for proctored exams at specific, limited locations so they could take these exams using pencil-and-paper forms. The switch to computer-based testing (which (ISC)2 calls “CBT” even though the cert and training industries usually reserve this acronym for “computer-based training” instead, so be prepared for a double-take or three if you read the press release yourself) will speed scoring and exam results reporting, make it easier for candidates to take these exams at nearby testing centers, and enable them to register and pay for their exam encounters more quickly and easily.
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s good to see that (ISC)2 is finally catching up with standard best practices for exam offer and delivery.
March 5, 2012 4:10 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
CompTIA sponsors Advancing Women in IT community online
, nascent Women in IT organization needs help and support
Thanks to a story posted today on CertMag.com entitled “Push Is on for More Women in IT,” I learned about a new CompTIA program called “Advancing Women in IT Community” this morning. I was a little confused in scanning this name for understanding until I realized this represents an online community, sponsored by CompTIA, to help advance women in the IT profession. The ultimate goal is to foster the recruitment of members to build this community, and then to foment the proliferation of “member-driver initiatives” to help move this process along. Thus, suggested examples for current member-driven initiatives on the home page include the following (though the Initiatives tab page currently reads “There are no initiatives at this time.”):
- Create an “Advancing Women in IT” video
- Develop educational speakers and webinars
- Design a mentoring program
- Collect and develop group best practices
A quick gander at the home page for this community shows the kind of scope that CompTIA has in mind for its development and activity (pay special attention to the tabs, please):
CompTIA Advancing Women in IT online community home page
Further inspection of the tabs on the page shows this to be a community still very much in the early stages of coalescing. Besides the absence of real initiatives on the Initiatives tab, there’s only one entry on the Community Resources tab (survey results on forming the community from Breakaway 2011), only a single link to a couple of blog posts on the Blog Posts tab, and two events on the Events tab (both sponsored by CompTIA). There’s more to see on the bottom row of tabs, however: half-a-dozen news items under the News tab, photo and bio for community manager Cathy Alper of CompTIA on the Community Staff Leader tab, two names on the leadership tab, including Sandy Ashworth of Unisys as the Group Chair, and Jean Mork Bredenson of Service 800 as the Vice-chair, plus more than a dozen entries under the Industry Resources tab.
Obviously, this is a community that’s just getting some air under its wings. I invite my readers to check out their work, and urge them to consider lending some support and volunteer assistance to help get up and get going. For those women who already work in IT, and those getting ready to go to work in the field, that goes double!
March 2, 2012 4:35 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
highly monitored environment at Pearson-VUE testing centers
, Pearson-VUE insitutes biometric checks for exam admission
Anne Martinez at GoCertify.com has posted an interesting video from Pearson VUE that shows how certification exam candidates will be screened upon entry to one of that company’s testing centers. After reviewing testing rules, candidates must go through an admissions process. This starts with two forms of ID, including one government-issued ID with photo, then you’ll sign your name on a digital signature pad. Then you’ll provide a digital fingerprint, and a palm vein scan for biometric identity check. Then your photograph will be taken, and all the data securely stored with exam information — and eventually, exam results — at Pearson-VUE HQ.
You’ll be assigned a locker where you can store all your personal effects (nothing goes into the testing room with you, except what Pearson issues to you). Your palm will be scanned again before you enter the testing room. Your hand will be scanned each time you leave the testing room, and whenever you return from a break. You will also be under video surveillance during the entire testing period.
Get used to a highly controlled and highly monitored test experience. Check out the video: “Testing at Pearson-VUE: Biometric Check-In Overview.” Very interesting!
February 29, 2012 3:09 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel presenting at March 2012 MCCC
, Next MCCC March 14-15 2012
MCCC stands for Microsoft Certified Career Conference, and it’s up on March 14 and 15, 2012. And as with all the previous such conferences, I’m volunteering as a presenter for that event. It’s free, and open for online registration to the Internet public (this means YOU), so do yourself a favor: go ahead and REGISTER!
Here is the MCCC blurb
The agenda for this event is still coming together, but I can tell you this much:
- Steven Rose will do the keynote on the topic of “Building the brand of YOU!”
- MS Learning Academic Lead Jeff Johnson and I will be reprising our “Certification in Academia” presentation with new case studies and examples, and I will even wax eloquent about my experience teaching MS cert classes at Austin Community College.
- I will also be presenting on non-Microsoft cloud-related certifications in a session entitled (appropriately enough) “Other Cloud Certifications,” in which I’ll cover offerings from VMware, IBM, Oracle/Sun, RackSpace/CloudU, CompTIA, and more.
If you’re considering any kind of Microsoft certification these days, this is one event you won’t want to miss. This goes double for recent or pending college graduates, as the content for this shindig is heavily oriented in YOUR direction. Hope to see you there. Here’s the MCCC registration link, one more time.
February 28, 2012 5:59 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I got a nice, short phone call from Andy Gremett, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Cisco Learning yesterday. This morning, the company will announce changes to its CCNA Security and CCNP Security exams, to reflect changes in the technology base and the threat landscape since the last time these credentials were updated in 2009-2010. Andy also informed me that their job task analyses indicate that CCNA Security and CCNP Security holders are migrating from job responsibilities that split their efforts between routine networking (switch, router, infrastructure stuff) and security networking (firewalls, VPNs, security monitor and audit, and other security stuff) to job responsibilities that focus primarily on the security stuff just mentioned. In fact, the ratio has shifted from about 46% security to nearly 80% security in just the last little while.
Home page logos for CCNA Security, CCNP Security, Security Specializations
New technologies and challenges include increasing proliferation of mobile devices and apps, wider use of collaboration and social media, large-scale migration of data into the cloud, nearly ubiquitous use of virtualization, and an ever more pervasive and nasty collection of malware threats and attack vectors. No wonder these credentials were due for a refresh–perhaps it’s not out of line to even call these changes “increased hardening!”
The updated CCNA Security exam (IINS: Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security) will be released today with Exam ID 640-554. Its predecessor, 640-553, will remain live until 9/30/2012, so that those already studying for that particular exam can still take it. The VPN and Firewall exams for CCNP Security will likewise be updated (firewall exam 642-617 is being superseded by exam 642-618, and the former remains live until 5/28/2012; VPN exam 642-647 is being superseded by exam 642-648, and also expires on 5/28/2012). Because these exams are also the focus for the Cisco Firewall Security Specialist and Cisco VPN Security Specialist certifications, respectively, those credentials are also under the same retire-and-replace regime as well.
“Out with the old, and in with the new,” is ever the way it is with technology certs in general, and security certs in particular. That’s because keeping up with the threat landscape and new technologies is an important key to maintaining a proper security posture!
February 25, 2012 3:45 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
always check the survey method when analyzing survey results
, ruminations on the 2012 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary survey
To keep up with what I sometimes call the “cert biz” I read LOTS of blogs and newsletters. So when the latest Global Knowledge newsletter hit my inbox last Thursday (2/23/2012) I perked up a bit to see the following story headline “15 Top Paying IT Certifications for 2012.”
Hmm...what does this headline really say?
My initial interpretation of this story’s headline led me to expect that the highest-paying certs would be included in this round-up. And in fact some of those credentials are indeed present in their list — most notably the PMP (Project Management Professional) and the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certs.
The report cited in the story comes from Global Knowledge’s own “annual IT Skills and Salary survey.” That story also includes the following prefatory remark as its second paragraph:
Note: The rankings below are based on certifications that received the minimum 200 responses required to derive a salary figure that is statically accurate. There are certifications that pay more that are not represented due to their exclusive nature. These include CCIE: Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert and VCDX: VMware Certified Design Expert, for example.
Hmmm. I assume “statically” is a mistake, and probably should read “statistically.” Interesting that Randy Muller, the story’s author, does not provide the overall sample size and its statistical characteristics, nor does he explain how he arrived at the 200 number necessary to achieve statistical significance. I understand where he’s coming from — namely, “the Law or Large Numbers” which essentially states that “…as the number of samples increases, the average of these samples is likely to reach the mean of the whole population” (source: Investopedia). The idea is you have to have some number of responses before averaging them bears any relationship to reality.
Nevertheless, the Note quoted above does recognize that there are other “…certifications that pay more that are not represented due to their exclusive nature.” That means “for which 200 responses were not received” as I take it. To his mention of CCIE and VCDX, I would also add the Cisco Certified Architect, the various SAP R/3 credentials, Microsoft’s Certified Master (MCM) and Certified Architect (MCA) — and lots of other architect-level certifications in general — plus such niche credentials as the Wireshark Certified Network Analyst, the GIAC Security Expert (GSE), and so on and so forth.
The survey reports on 15 top-paying certs, not THE Top 15 certs by pay. Big difference, and important to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to follow the fairly sizable herd of responses (15 certs times a minimum of 200 for each one indicates a sample size larger than the 3,000 respondents required to include them, not accounting for individuals who hold 2 or more of those credentials) being tracked and analyzed.
February 22, 2012 2:44 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
CompTIA Storage+ replaces SNIA SCNP
The full name of the new CompTIA Storage+ exam and credential is Storage+ Powered by SNIA (the Storage Networking Industry Association, a non-profit devoted to storage networking and related technologies, teamed up with CompTIA to develop this credential). Thus, when the Storage+ went live on January 18, 2012, the SNIA’s own entry-level credential known as the SNIA Certified Networking Professional, or SCNP, was retired. In every conceivable way, SNIA and CompTIA want prospective storage professionals to pursue the Storage+ as their first stepping stone into storage networking certification.
- The CompTIA Storage+ logo page header
Beyond the entry-level Storage+, however, SNIA still has a lot to offer:
- The SNIA Certified Storage Engineer (SCSE) is for those who “…provide day-to-day management of a storage network environment.”
- The SNIA Certified Storage Architect (SCSA) is for whose who assess, plan, and design storage networks.
- The SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSE) requires digging earning the SCSA, then digging into a variety of third-party exams from the likes of NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco, EMC, HP, or Brocade to demonstrate competency with vendor-specific systems and environments.
In addition to the third parties already mentioned under the SCSE entry above, companies such as Dell, IBM, VMWare, Oracle, Red Hat, and others also offer IT certifications that focus on or provide substantial coverage of storage networking technologies. For more information see also my Tom’s IT Pro article “Top 5 Storage Certifications.”
[Update added 2/22/2012 8:53 AM: Our annual certification rating and ranking gets its update on PearsonITCertification.com. Be sure to check it out!]
February 18, 2012 8:41 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
CompTIA Survey says schools owe impendiung grads employment info & help
In casting about for a blog topic this weekend, I came across an interesting press release amongst recent CompTIA offerings in that genre. It’s entitled “Poor Information on Career Opportunities is Costing Students Jobs.” If I understand it correctly it reports on a recent CompTIA survey that indicates that “respondents … want schools and universities to do a lot more to help them understand career options…” including
- “… information integrated into school lessons about what careers different subjects can lead to”
- “… information about careers other than those directly related to their field of study”
- “… better careers advice at school or university”
Please note that this PR ditty was posted in London, so you are seeing some Britishisms in the copy, which I reproduce verbatim in the preceding quotes.
This actually raises an interesting issue–namely, to what extent an educational institution should be responsible for informing students about career opitions and even helping those students find their way into gainful employment. I always thought academia was called “the ivory tower” in part because it remained indifferent to and unsullied by such concerns, and also because its interests were very often elsewhere: pure research, advancing the general body of knowledge, imparting learning skills and knowledge to students, and so forth.
Certainly, I think the educational institutions should be mindful of real-world and employment consequences for their students, but I don’t believe it’s entirely fair to shackle them with outright responsibility for steering them into the workforce and helping them find jobs. But certainly, some kinds of institutions — particularly community colleges and trade schools — are chartered with a role in workforce preparation for their students and these players probably should take a more active role in laying out employment consequences and real-world options and choices. Many of them already do.
But I don’t think it’s fair to hold education responsible for this kind of thing. Rather, I think it is reasonable to ask educators to pay attention to these issues and to address them to some extent in their teaching, but it shouldn’t be a primary focus in that work (that belongs to the subject matter at hand, and in making sure students understand them, and know how to apply their knowledge to real-world situations).
As I think back on my own path through higher education, and look at how friends and family in my parent’s generation, my generation, and my children’s generation have worked themselves from school into work, I see a lot of forces at work. Certainly, those who pay for education — family and the person receiving the education — shoulder the biggest responsibilities in making sure an investment in learning delivers appropriate opportunities and a reasonable payoff. Students also choose particular individuals as examples or mentors, and will often turn to them for advice about what to study, what kind of work to pursue, and where and how to find a job.
I do believe it would be helpful for educational institutions to be mindful that a productive working life should be part of the post-graduate payoff for their students, and to do their part in helping them attain this reasonable and laudable goal. But there are a lot more players in this game than the schools, and it’s a mistake to put too much of the information delivery and responsibility into their hands.