It’s the first Friday of the month, and as always, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics posts its “Employment Situation Summary” for the previous month — September 2011, in this case — at 8:30 AM Eastern US Time. The numbers did manage to go up a little bit (103,000) for September which beats the near-zero counts for August, though the official unemployment number didn’t budge from its 9.1 percent value.
And with the return of all those striking Sprint telecomm workers to work in September, IT employment edged up by 34,000. Lest this give you too much encouragement, however: parse this quote:
Employment in information was up by 34,000 over the month due to the return of about
45,000 telecommunications workers to payrolls after an August strike.
Even though 45,000 strikers returned to work, counts for September went up by 34,000. In my book, that reflects an actual job LOSS for IT workers of 9,000. Ouch! Total employment in the IT sector is around 2.8 million (based on the Figures in Table A-14 which cites that unemployed counts of 209,000 comprise 7.4 percent of the total working population in the Information sector, the total count is just over 2.82 million). Thus a decrease of 9,000 represents only 0.3% of that population so it is a minor fluctuation to be sure, but also one in the wrong direction (down, not up). My usual hunker down mantra is apparently still in full effect for those who are actually still working in IT, while those looking for IT jobs will have to look even harder.
In researching this month’s EmpSitSum (as I sometimes call it to myself when remember its “First Friday of the month” timing), I came across an interesting article on Examiner.com. Entitled “Employment Situation Summary October 2011” it delves a bit into something that often troubles me as I review each month’s report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics — namely, the way the unemployed are counted by this government agency.
Here’s the root of my concern, quoted from that article:
The report touches on an unsettling concern seldom reported. Not counted in the 14 millions unemployed are the 9.3 million Americans who are unable to find full time unemployment and have taken part time work. This group is referred to as involuntary part time workers and this group has continued to grow nationally.
In addition to the involuntary part time, there is a increasing number of marginally attached workers who are available to work and have looked for work within the past 12 months or have simply given up seeking employment. There are 2.5 million workers considered marginally attached workers with about a million who believe there are no job available for them and are not counted among the unemployed.
The way I read this is that our employment rate might be “officially” at 9.1 percent, but if you add 9.3 million (for those involuntary part-timers) and another 2.5 million (for the marginally attached) to the official 14.0 million, you get a total of 25.8 million. And then there’s another category of unemployed that’s not on this radar either: it’s the count of “discouraged workers” (employed persons who have basically given up on finding a job). In some cases it’s counted within the marginally attached numbers, and in some cases. not. For the purposes of this blog, let’s assume that this count is included.
Thus if 14 million equals 9.1 percent unemployment, 25.8 million unemployed and underemployed equals 16.77 percent of the workforce, or just a hair under 1 in every 6 people. This is really scary, and tells us that unless we make constructive changes as a collection of individuals, an agglomeration of local, state, and national governments, and a society, we’re in for a long and painful recovery. I certainly hope that Republicans and Democrats can join forces to help improve the jobs outlook in the USA, or we’ll be stuck in the mud for years to come!
On Monday, October 3, 2011, at the MS SharePoint conference in Anaheim, California, Microsoft announced a new Microsoft Certified Architect credential to the product’s self-selected core audience. This marks two interesting milestones in the evolution of Microsoft’s pinnacle IT certification: first and foremost, it puts SharePoint right up there at the forefront of Microsoft’s critical technology platforms (along with Exchange Server, SQL Server, and Windows Server itself); second and somewhat more whimsically, it shows Microsoft surrendering to the inevitable TLA-ization of the architect credential moniker. That is, “Microsoft Certified Architect” is now being abbreviated as MCA, despite Microsoft’s initial attempts to resist this impulse for the first two years of this program’s existence!
You can read a brief blurb on this newest member of the MCA line-up on the Born to Learn blog (headline depicted above), or get the complete details from TechNet’s The Master Blog in a post entitled “Announcing MCA for MIcrosoft SharePoint Server 2010… and our very first SharePoint MCAs!” Check it out!
In 2009, thanks to the generous grant of a set of a half-dozen exam vouchers from Microsoft, I was able to award six lucky winners in a contest that requested applicants to share their certification success stories with me in exchange for a chance to win one of those vouchers. On July 8, 2009, I announced the winners. One of those winners was Renne Barcelona from the Philippines, who was profiled in more detail the following week on July 15.
Last week I was both surprised and pleased to receive a follow-up e-mail from Renne that provides some additional information about what’s happened in his or her life since that voucher was granted. Renne was kind enough to give me permission to reproduce this letter, so here it is:
I’ve been reading thru my past emails and just went to your blogsite, I just wanted to thank you again for giving me the opportunity last January 2010 and won a free Microsoft Exam Voucher.
As of now, I was able to pass a series of certifications from Microsoft, CompTIA, EC Council and Adobe and was also able to have an upgrade on my career. Inline with this, I was also able to fully complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and on currently pursuing my MBA course and currently working as a Tier 2 Remote Systems Engineer with one of the largest IT service provider in Dallas Forth Worth Area, Texas (I said remote because I was employed by US company but is supporting clients in the US even my current location is in the Philippines).
I’ve been reading your blog almost everyday and thanks for all the wonderful tips, tricks and knowledge that is surely helping us to be updated in the latest IT trends. If it is not for the free voucher that you gave me last year, I think I will not be able to pursue and continue my career in IT and that voucher served as an important stepping stone to success in reaching my goals in life . Thanks again Ed and may God bless you.
Boy, it’s great to know that an almost throwaway idea — “Hey, let me see if I can talk to Microsoft and get them to fund some exam vouchers! It would be good for the blog and good for their program.” — can make a real difference in somebody’s life. I am so proud of Renne for seizing the opportunity that a small gift provided and turning it to such great advantage. It calls to mind the old folk-tale “For Want of a Nail,” but in an entirely positive and heart-warming way. All I can say to Renne, and to all the people chasing IT certification in search of personal betterment is “Keep up the good work. It is your hard work and extra effort that makes the world a better place.” I hope this blog can inspire more people to get up off their duffs and get their careers moving in a positive direction.
It’s always gratifying to hear from readers of this and other blogs, doubly so when what I hear comes from other players in the industry. That’s why I was very gratified and interested to hear from Joe Cannata last month: he’s a Senior Manager for Business Development at Brocade (more formally, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.) a company best known for its high-end networking solutions. Although Joe’s title doesn’t mention “certification” anywhere, he’s the guy who runs the company’s many and varied certification programs.
Last Monday (9/26/2011) it was my pleasure to speak with Joe to discuss Brocade’s past, present, and future certification plans. I was very interested to learn that nearly 12,000 individuals hold some form of Brocade accreditation (not all of their credentials are formally identified as “certifications”) and that nearly 20,000 such credentials have been granted since their program kicked off nearly 10 years ago. Here’s a screen cap from the company’s certification overview brochure (PDF):
I had to reduce this image significantly to get it to fit the blog window width, but you can grab the afore-linked PDF and consult page 4 to see the full-size original. The important things to notice are three tracks and three levels for a 9-cell matrix, which I’ll reproduce in a table:
|Brocade Certification Program Overview|
|Level||Certified Professional FICON Track 2010||Brocade Certified Professional Data Center Track 2012||Brocade Certified Professional Internetworking Track 2010|
|Elite Level (Advanced)||Brocade Certified Architect for FICON
Brocade Certified Fabric Professional
|Brocade Certified Fabric Designer||Brocade Certified Network Professional
Brocade Certified Layer 4-7 Professional
|Premiere Level (Intermediate)||Brocade Certified Fabric Administrator||Brocade Certified SAN Manager
Brocade Certified Fabric Professional
Brocade Certified Fabric Administrator
|Brocade Certified Network Engineer
Brocade Certified Layer 4-7 Engineer
|Select Level (Beginner)||Brocade Accredited FICON Specialist
Brocade Accredited Data Center Specialist
|Brocade Accredited Data Center Specialist
Brocade Accredited Server Connectivity Specialist
|Brocade Accredited Internetworking Specialist|
As you can see, actual certifications don’t kick in until you get to the Intermediate level and into administrator, professional, manager, and engineer job roles. All the entry-level items are designated as “accredited specialist” credentials instead. Brocade’s technology focus areas include SAN and high speed networking with an emphasis on both IP and Fibre Channel based storage networking technologies. This is very interesting stuff, and I’ll keep digging into it monthly for the foreseeable future. Please stay tuned for additional posts on the program and its contents, or visit the main Brocade certification page for more information.
Wow! We are really cycling through some changes on the CISSP exam. If you take a look at this blog from the exam development team at Transcender (a well-known and widely respected purveyor of premium-priced IT certification practice exams, and now also a part of Kaplan, Inc.) you’ll get a pretty good sense of what’s in the offing for half of the domains in the Common Body of Knowledge (aka CBK) for the CISSP exam. Check it out at “The Transcender Team Explains the Coming CISSP Update – Part 1 of 2.”
This will be the third revision upcoming for our CISSP Study Guide (currently in its 5th edition) in as many years. Looks like the continued popularity of this certification is spurring significant attention to its timeliness and coverage, with concomitant impact on the amount of change to the exam’s content. Here we go again! Shon Harris and Microsoft will rev their book just after and just before New Year’s, respectively, and Mike Chapple, Michael Stewart, and I will be huffing and puffing to keep up.
I’ve been writing for various Tom’s Hardware Websites (Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s Guide, to be more specific) since the turn of the millennium, having started with translating articles for them from German into English. That’s because the “Tom” in the Website names is “Dr. Tomas Pabst, MD” and the site’s technical and professional nexus still remains seated in the Munich area in the Federal Republic of Germany, along with a strong international presence throughout Europe, North America, and the rest of the globe.
About two months ago, I was contacted by James Alan Miller, the site editor for a new Tom’s Website, called Tom’sITPro(short for Tom’s IT Professional) a new branded site for the Tom’s empire (now owned by French media company BestofMedia, and with sites in many languages around the world (French, English, German, Spanish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Russian, Turkish, Italian, Mandarin, and perhaps more, because it’s hard to tell how many languages are supported in toto). After a quick and happy agreement that I would serve as their “certification guy” — in much the same way that I write and blog regularly on certification topics for PearsonITCertification.com, and also blog on certification right here — I embarked on a series of nearly two dozen articles on a wide range of certification topics for the site.
Today, I’m very pleased to announce that my first Tom’sITPro article posted early this morning, entitled “Training Options for IT Pros.” Check it out to find my coverage of various IT training companies that cover the whole certification spectrum, or those that specialize in various subject areas (vendor-specific programs, information security, computer forensics, and more). I hope you’ll also tune into this great new site, and add it to your favorites as you search for general business IT news, information, reviews, and, of course, certification coverage from yours truly.
On August 17, 2011, I posted a blog entitled “MS Recerts Are Coming” to follow up on my original July 27 item “Microsoft Seeks Recert Feedback.” In those posting I reported on Microsoft’s survey to ask certified professionals about their thinking on recertification and related requirements (the 7/27 item) and then to report that the Windows Phone Developer MCPD (and since then, the Azure Developer MCPD) have gained recertification requirements. On Monday, I had a nice conversation with Don Field, Senior Director of Microsoft Certification Programs at Microsoft learning to discuss the results of their recertification survey. He also posted a short item on Born To Learn on Tuesday, 9/20/2011, entitled “Recertification survey: Results are in!” that discuss the company’s findings on that survey.
Here are the high-level results, lifted straight from Don’s blog:
- Most respondents (84%) were neutral or positive about requiring candidates to demonstrate continued competence. 65% of respondents were either positive or very positive.
- When we asked how often someone should need to recertify, most people recommended between 2 and 3 years.
- Requiring an individual to pass an exam specific to that certification was rated the most preferred and most relevant activity for demonstrating continued competence.
- The vast majority of respondents (93%) answered that recertification would have either no impact or a positive impact on the value of the program. 75% of respondents felt that it would have a positive or very positive impact.
My own follow up conversation with Don also included some further interesting highlights as well. First and foremost, this introduction of recerts for the two credentials already mentioned (MCPD on Winodws Phone Developer and Azure Developer) do not necessarily indicate that any and all MS credentials will become subject to automatic expiration dates and mandatory renewals in the immediate future. It’s certainly a possibility that some will become subject to renewal, but there’s a lot of thinking, research, and planning that will be necessary before any dominoes start falling over. Second, MS hasn’t ruled out continuing education in lieu of re-examination for any certs, though re-certification examinations certainly do have a lot in common with earlier upgrade examinations for the MCSE and MCSA credentials. Third, it’s very important to understand that most respondents to the survey, and most employers, all agree that recertification adds value to existing credentials, and will probably boost the standing and value of the newer Microsoft certifications as well.
I think this is a very positive development myself, and that it shows the continuing maturation and evolution of the Microsoft certification program and its growing portfolio of credentials. And with CompTIA just having switched over to regular recertification for its credentials as well that means that the Top 3 programs –namely, Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTIA—all make recertification part of their standard way of doing business. I have to think this is all to the good for IT professionals, the companies that hire them, and the recruiters or headhunters who seek out qualified IT talent for placement in IT positions.
I found a recent story at the Certification Magazine Website entitled “CIOs Talk IT Hiring in Q4” that appears to provide a glimmer of good news on the IT hiring front, for what would be a decidedly welcome change. This report is based on the most recent Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report for Q4 2011.
Here are some highlights, straight from the Robert Half press release on this latest report:
- The net 6 percent increase in anticipated IT hiring activity is up two points from a net 4 percent increase in hiring activity projected last quarter.
- Ninety-two percent of CIOs are confident in their companies’ growth prospects in the next three months, up five-points from last quarter.
- Eighty-eight percent of technology executives rated the confidence of their firms investing in IT projects in the fourth quarter a 3 or higher on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the most optimistic.
- IT security and networking professionals are in greatest demand right now, according to survey respondents.
- Two-thirds (66 percent) of CIOs said it’s challenging to find skilled professionals today, up eighteen points from the previous quarter.
Hmmm: very interesting! Here’s what I take away from this information: First, IT hiring plans are ever so slightly on the upswing. Second, even though growth projections are decidedly optimistic, hiring plans are not very aggressive at all. Third, a lack of bullishness also shows in the middle-of-the road rating for confidence in upcoming IT investment for the current quarter. Fourth, security and networking are as important as ever (something that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future). Fifth, as the old saw goes “Good help is hard to find.” Maybe this is more a case of “no bad news is good news” though it’s not unwarranted to say “no big change means no big news,” either.
While both CertMag and Robert Half seem ebullient about this report, I’m not so sure it tells us to expect any significant changes in the IT hiring and activity climate through the end of 2011 (and probably, well into 2012 as well). I find myself repeating my old mantra “Hunker down. Stay put. Things have gotta get better sometime…” But when?
In a rare and unusual display of industry wide cert candidate support, Microsoft and New Horizons have teamed up to offer free mentoring sessions to students who have recently taken a certification training class but not yet taken the corresponding exam. The “rare and unusual” part of this offer comes from its extension to any and all cert candidates. In other words, you needn’t have taken a class from Microsoft nor New Horizons to qualify for this offer (see this Born to Learn blog post from 9/6/2011 for more details “Certification Mentoring Partnership Launches“).
Here’s a key snippet from that blog post that explains a bit more about what’s available and how it works:
What it is:
- Delivered by Microsoft Certified Trainers
- Sessions are delivered as webcasts
- Reviews the top technical issues that correspond to the questions that are most often missed on the certification exams
What it is not:
- This is not a free training class, but an opportunity for students who have already taken training, and want to make sure they are prepared to pass the certification exam.
Current Mentoring Topics:
- Azure Developers
- Exchange Server
- Lync Server
- Server Administrator
- SharePoint Server
- Web Developers
- Windows 7
- Windows 7 Developers
See the New Horizons Web page entitled “Confidence Before You Sit for the Exam” for more information, details, and program sign-up (registration required). Obviously, New Horizons thinks you’re going to like this offer so much you’ll come see them for a future course some time. My advice: take advantage of this while it lasts, if you’re taking any of the related MS exams. It’s almost too good to be true!
Check out this 9/12/2011 press release from CompTIA “CompTIA Supports Innovative Approaches to Putting People Back to Work, Streamlining Regulations for Small Business.” Therein, CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux manages to endorse elements of President Obama’s jobs plan without coming right out and endorsing the plan in its entirety or granting much, if any, kudos to our Commander in Chief for his recent speech and related jobs plan efforts.
Specifically, CompTIA endorses continuation of the halving of the Social Security payroll tax and write-offs for investments in computing equipment. As you’d expect, Mr. Thibodeaux also praises “… innovative ways to put people back to work, and advance training and education…” And likewise, it doesn’t take a rocket scientists to determine that CompTIA has something substantial to offer by way of certification, job preparation, and high-tech learning.
Mr. Thibodeaux also cites a need to fill 450,000 positions in high-tech right now, and an untold number of technology jobs in the future, then goes on to mention CompTIA’s discounts and special offers for returning US military veterans seeking to re-enter the civilian work force.
What I’d like to see is a plan for retraining the unemployed where the US Government helps propel them into high-tech training to help them re-enter the civilian work force, too. And while we’re at it, I’d like to see CompTIA offer the government a substantial (say 50%) discount on the costs of the exams those retrainees will need to get certified, and beat on their training partners to do likewise for training classes to help prepare them for those exams. And what the heck, why not give CompTIA and the training companies tax credits for those charitable contributions to getting unemployed Americans back to work.
There’s a jobs plan that I can relate to, and have to believe might actually do some good. Is anybody listening out there? What do you think?