May 13, 2013 7:21 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
A recently-published study from Harris Interactive reveals some interesting concerns from American workers surveyed online between March 19 and 21, 2013 (see this April 4 news item for more details: “Majority of American Workers are Worried About Job and Benefits Security.” I can’t help but see this as a natural consequence of our painfully slow economic recovery since the doldrums of 2008-2009. Even though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the lowest overall unemployment since President Obama took office — 7.5 percent, the grinding and poky pace of economic improvement isn’t buoying confidence amongst the American workforce, which probably explains equally sluggish growth in consumer confidence and spending.
A follow-up story from Harris that appeared on May 2, 2013 ran with the preceding headline, and indicates that slow improvement isn’t really helping American workers feel better about their current work situations and future prospects. The company’s “Harris Poll Jobs and Benefits Security Index” (HP-JBSI)measures how workers feel about their jobs and benefits, and about their overall employment security. The May 2 story reports that “…this combined measure [the HP-JBSI] shows a strong and increasing concern, particularly among older and higher income workers, while individual concerns show more dramatic month-to-month shifts among all workers.”
Here are some of the findings reported in the latest story:
- More U.S. workers (50% March – 53% April) expect to do more work without getting more money in the next three months;
- More U.S. workers (20% March – 24% April) expect to have their salary or hours reduced in the next three months;
- Less U.S. workers (61% March – 55% April) believe that if they were going to look for a new job, they would be able to find one;
- And, less U.S. workers believe they will get a raise from their employer (35% March – 29% April) or receive better retirement benefits (18% March – 13% April) in the next three months.
Turning to the HP-JBSI measurement, Harris reports these findings as well:
- U.S. workers with an annual household income of $50,000-$74,999 (58% March-62% April) are both the most concerned income group, and the group showing the sharpest month-over-month rise in concern. Those with incomes of $75,000 or more also show notable growth in concerns (56% March-59% April).
- U.S. workers ages 55 and older (60% March-63% April) are, in an echo of the trend above, the age group showing both the greatest overall concern and the most prominent growth in this measure.
Harris Interactive President and CEO Al Angrisani (former Assistant Secretary of Labor for President Reagan) uses these results to opine that “…workers are more pessimistic about the likelihood of finding a job if they need to look for one, as well as the likelihood of seeing a benefits improvement.” He goes on to observe that because of the cost and risk involved in recruiting and hiring “talent and new employees,” such activity is regarded as a “major investment consideration for employers.” Their apparent reluctance to increase headcount is also contributing to a sense of unease among employed workers, particularly those at higher pay grades and levels of responsibility.
Does this mean layoffs are coming back in vogue in organizations? Not according to recent first-time unemployment claims figures for the past 4-6 weeks. But something has the workforce spooked, particularly those who’ve been around it long enough to see (or at least fear) the apparent handwriting on the wall. Given recent stock market upticks and new highs set for all three major stock indices last week, it’s interesting to see this wave of fear and loathing from the workforce. Let’s hope it’s just a case of the jitters, and not a portent of a labor downturn in the offing. As always, only time will tell!
May 10, 2013 2:12 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Last September (2012) I posted a blog about Microsoft’s latest “Second Shot” cert exam offering — sign up with a special code, then get a free re-take if you don’t pass the exam on the first try. This posting is a follow-up reminder that anybody who signed up for that offering must exercise their retakes by the end of this month (May, 2013). That’s exactly three weeks from today, so it’s time to contact Prometric and exercise your Second Shot voucher if you want to slide in under the deadline!
There’s even a new “Tile” for the Second Shot program now, so more must be in the offing.
As I revisit the Second Shot page at MS Learning, I see they’ve updated their trade dress with a Windows 8 style (call it Windows Store UI, Modern UI, or even Metro, if you like) and are still reminding people to grab seats while they can at Prometric testing centers to exercise the offer. If this applies to you, time to stop dithering and get on the phone or go online to grab one of the no-doubt few seats left in your area to take that second shot at an MS certification exam. Time’s a wastin’!
One more thing: If you signed up for an MS Certification Pack (which usually means enough exams to earn an MCSA or MCSE or suchlike credential), you’ve got until December 31, 2013, to exercise your Second Shot voucher. This warning applies only to those who signed up for single exams under the Second Shot offer from last Fall. This means if you want to buy a Certification Pack and do so before the end of May, you can qualify for Second Shots on all related exams until the end of the year. Again: Get cracking!
Here’s a reminder on how to work the Second Shot process, and the later deadline for those who bought Certification Packs under the most recent Second Shot deal.
May 8, 2013 2:59 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
As his online biography attests, Cisco Operations Manager Marcus Fan (he runs Cisco’s San Jose Customer Proof of Concept Lab within the company’s Worldwide Sales organization) is no slouch when it comes to certification. He holds 30-odd Cisco credentials, including CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, CCDP, CCSP, CCVP, and a whole slew of specialist certs, along with another dozen or so non-Cisco certs as well.
Marcus Fan with a bookshelf full of Cisco Press titles, most or all of which he’s sure to have read.
While his biography makes interesting — and hopefully also, inspiring — reading, his recent post on “Balancing Priorities” for the Cisco Depth of Field blog raises some very important points for IT professionals interesting in advancing their careers while also seeking to strike a harmonious work-life balance. He makes it very clear that those interested in pursuing certification are going to have to give some things up to reach their goals, and make sure they can respond to changing conditions and requirements that the job makes, in addition to pursuing their own professionals goals and interests.
All this got me to thinking about the kinds of sacrifices it can take to build up a substantial certification portfolio — not unlike Marcus’s own, which is why I start pondering this topic — while also dealing with job, family, leisure pursuits, and overall quality of life issues. There’s simply no denying that if you want to pursue serious learning and skills development, you’re going to have to put certain aspects of life on hold for a while, and to be extra conscious of meeting family and personal health and well-being needs in the face of the large amounts of time, money, and effort you must expend in that pursuit. It’s tricky to try to have it all, when things keep slipping around on the table, and life gets in the way (as it so often will).
That’s why my hat is off to those who manage to knock off substantial credentials, while also managing full-time employment and family responsibilities. Keep up the good work, people, and take to heart Marcus Fan’s observation that “certification is a way of life.” That’s true not only because it has a way of intruding upon other aspects of life, but also because it has a way of shaping life after the work is done and the credentials are earned. After all, they too must be maintained, along with all the other ingredients that go into a rich, full, and rewarding work-life balance.
May 6, 2013 8:44 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
When I blogged last week about Cisco’s participation in an announcement at the White House on April 29, where First Lady Michelle Obama announced a joint technology training initiative to help veterans and transitioning military staff still on active duty find their way back into productive jobs in the civilian workforce, I wondered if other players in this game might not also be active (see my May 1 post “Cisco, White House Team Up to Support Veterans Transitioning to Civilian IT Jobs” for that initial coverage). Instead of wondering, I should have wandered over to the Microsoft Born to Learn blog, where I would have found this very post available that same day: “Microsoft Prepares Veterans for Transition to IT Job Market” (also dated April 29, from the inimitable and irrepressible Veronica Sopher).
The First Lady takes the podium in the White House Press Room to announce a public-private partnership to help returning forces and vets find good civilian jobs.
As I suspected, the Colossus of Redmond has a hand in this effort, too: Microsoft has, in fact, partnered with Global Knowledge and Prometric to lay out various learning paths to help military professionals with information technology chops to transition into similar roles as IT civilian professionals. What’s more, MS plans to donate instructor-led training classes and exam vouchers to a first wave of 1,000 transitioning service members who are preparing to start up the pilot phase of this program (with 160,000 more colleagues to follow behind them some time between now and the end of 2014).
Initially, Microsoft will provide training, vouchers and resources to help returning service people (and qualified veterans) earn any of a handful of Microsoft Certified Solutions Association (MCSA) credentials on subject matters that include Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2012. This should also prime the pump to see those same certification candidates later gearing up to tackle Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert credentials on desktop and server infrastructures, private cloud, communications, messaging, and SharePoint.
The Born to Learn blog post also includes this handy piece of advice, which I reproduce verbatim for the benefit of veterans and service members approaching the end of their active duty engagements: “If you are a transitioning service member and want to learn more about the IT Training and Certification Program and associated Microsoft official skills training, please contact your branch of service training officer.” Here’s a link to a Fact Sheet (PDF format) that readers are likely to find both relevant and interesting as well.
May 3, 2013 1:57 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Prior to this morning’s release of the April employment numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, many economists had predicted new job numbers would be under 100,000 again for that month, much in the same vein of the 88,000 new jobs reported for March 2013. Not so: the number came out at 165,000, much in keeping with numbers seen earlier in 2013 and late 2012. This kind of growth isn’t vigorous enough to lift the labor market out of the doldrums with any kind of speed but –as the old saying goes — “it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.” The overall unemployment rate at 7.5 percent is little altered from the previous month’s 7.6 percent, and the total numbers of unemployed (reported at 11.7 million) is also hardly budging from previous levels, either.
Slow steady improvement keeps plugging gamely along, despite dire predictions following sequester-related government furloughs and layoffs
Why is this news a surprise, when it keeps a fairly steady trend slowly grinding along? Because economists and politicians alike don’t really know what to make of the government funding cut known as “the sequester” and its overall impact on the labor market. Given the government’s heavy impact on overall employment and markets, it’s not unreasonable that all should be concerned about a negative impact of reining spending in through across-the-board spending cuts in that sector. But at least for April, the impact so far has not really moved the overall trend that’s persisted for the last 15 months or more. I’ll describe this as an agonizingly slow recovery, punctuated by occasional steps backward (as with the April report of only 88,000 new jobs added) but also with equally occasional steps forward (as with the March report of 236,000 new jobs) as well. On average, however, the improvement rate has been on the order of 150-165,000 jobs per month for some time now.
Alas, this means we’re still years and years away from soaking up our spare working capacity and reaching more normal levels of unemployment in the 5-6 percent range. And of course, we’re also still subject to hiccups, crises, financial reversals, and other influences that might retard or derail such recovery as we’re still able to muster. Does this language inject more drama into the employment situation summary than the numbers actually warrant? Probably, but the overall pace is slow enough that the recovery’s fragility also remains blindingly obvious. All I can say is: “Keep your fingers crossed, and let’s keep it going.”
May 1, 2013 2:33 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Every now and then, a real feel-good moment pops up in the IT cert biz — not terribly often, though, so I try to revel in such things as and when they happen. Last Monday (April 29) Cisco Systems and the White House released an announcement about a joint technology training initiative. It’s designed to help veterans and those transitioning from active duty back into civilian life prepare for strong careers in IT. The initiative is called the “IT Training and Certification Partnership,” which the afore-cited fact sheet describes as “a new public-private partnership that will enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service.” There will also be a grant program administered through the Department of Health and Human Services to help veterans with health care experience pursue professional nursing careers and earn a nursing license as well.
The IT side of things comes courtesy of a Military Credentialing and Licsensing Task Force established in mid-2012 at the DoD at the President’s direction. This task force sought to:
- First, to identify military specialties that could transfer to high-demand civilian jobs
- Second, to work with civilian licensing and credentialing associations to identify and close gaps between military training programs and corresponding civilian certification and licensing requirements
- Third, to provide veterans and service members greater access to certification and licensing training and exams
The Cisco partnership is the second initiative broached by the Task Force, and is intended to enable up to 161,000 service members to earn “industry-recognized, nationally-portable certifications necessary for … high-demand technology professions, including computer programmers, quality assurance engineers, and IT security analysts.” Working the task force and all major branches of the US military, Cisco and Futures, Inc. will begin this program by beginning work immediately with 1,000 active duty military personnel currently transitioning out of the service. These individuals will pilot the program and engage with training, certification, and career resources assembled for their use by Cisco and Futures, Inc. John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO blogged about this program and said: “Each participant will select one of several IT certification preparation course such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), which prepares entry-level network engineers for careers and helps maximize foundational networking knowledge. … After each participant completes the coursework and passes the certification exam, the [US IT Pipeline, a cloud-based exchange platform that incorporates a military skills translator facility] website will identify jobs in the IT sector that match their experience and qualifications.”
Later in the blog, Chambers indicates that other partners in this public-private joint effort include Global Knowledge, Pearson VUE, and others, all of which adds up to a pretty potent combination of program sponsors, training providers, and testing centers to help shepherd veterans and transitioning active duty personnel through IT cert training and testing. I’m really jazzed about this initiative and hope there will be many more like it popping up soon, what with the transitions out of Iraq and Afghanistan returning so many active duty regular and reserve military personnel to civilian life. It’s a great way to help them transition from serving their country to getting on with (and making the most of) their lives.
April 26, 2013 2:40 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In chewing over recent coverage at Mirek Burnejko’s ITCertificationMaster.com, I came across a gem entitled “How to Become a WiFi Security Expert for FREE.” It features the SWSE or SecurityTube Wi-Fi Security Expert certification, developed by well-known Wi-Fi Security Guy Vivek Ramachandran.
Although it consists of only 12 hours of video training, the SWSE covers a lot of surprisingly serious technical ground.
The self-professed “non-exhaustive” list of topics that the collection of videos in the training materials cover is pretty impressive, so I’ll just reproduce it verbatim here:
- Bypassing WLAN Authentication – Shared Key, MAC Filtering, Hidden SSIDs
- Cracking WLAN Encryption – WEP, WPA/WPA2 Personal and Enterprise, Understanding encryption based flaws (WEP,TKIP,CCMP)
- Attacking the WLAN Infrastructure – Rogues Devices, Evil Twins, DoS Attacks, MITM, Wi-Fi Protected Setup
- Advanced Enterprise Attacks – 802.1x, EAP, LEAP, PEAP, EAP-TTLS
- Attacking the Wireless Client – Honeypots and Hotspot attacks, Caffe-Latte, Hirte, Ad-Hoc Networks and Viral SSIDs, WiFishing
- Breaking into the Client – Metasploit, SET, Social Engineering
- Enterprise Wi-Fi Worms, Backdoors and Botnets
A complete 4.2 GB DVD image with all the videos is available for free download. Candidates can study and review the materials without enrolling on the SWSE page. But those who do enroll (and pay either $250 for the course and underlying infrastructure — more on that next — or $100 to take the cert exam by itself) can actually earn the credential itself (though the training can be free, the credential itself is not). The extra $150 above and beyond the exam cost gets candidates access to a student portal Website, Q&A forums, a PDF copy of the slides and course materials, a complete collection of home lab exercises and a practice test (“mock exam” in the home page’s terminology), a hardcopy certificate (suitable for framing, no doubt) and online certificate verification, plus free updates to course materials as they get produced.
As cert program offerings go, this one is pretty good. It comes from an impeccable source, is very reasonably priced, and provides a great set of materials to work from. Is it worth $250? I think so myself, but those on tight budgets can work from the free video materials, and buy Ramachandran’s book BackTrack5 Wireless Penetration Testing Beginner’s Guide for $50 or thereabouts), and save $100 on the high-end package, if they must. A pretty good deal all around, methinks.
April 24, 2013 3:29 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
According to my ongoing observations of how practicing and aspiring IT professionals get certified, it’s still the case that somewhere over half of those individuals chase their credentials down through the self-study route. That typically means that they buy one or more study guides and practice tests, plus possibly an Exam Cram, possibly some virtual lab time, and dig into study groups, user communities, and other resources online to learn what skills and knowledge they must master to pass however many exams a cert requires. But what if self-study isn’t your thing, or you’re in a situation where classroom training is needed (such as for topics where you’ve tried self-study but can’t get past the exam, or where the cert actually mandates a class, or whatever)?
At a high-end training center like those operated by New Horizons, Global Knowledge, and others of a similar stripe, or at high-octane boot camp operations like those from Intense School, Real MCSE Bootcamps, or Secure Ninja, it’s not unheard of to spend up to $1,000 a day for classroom training. And for a 5 to 14 day encounter, that means costs can really mount up. “Ouch!” say those who must fund such educational encounters out of their own pockets, in whole or in part (depending on the largess available from one’s employer, and the amount of funding at your disposal from the training budget).
I post today to remind readers that most American and Canadian IT professionals have another option for classroom training — namely, their local community college campuses. Rather than $500- $1,000 (or more) per day of classroom training, most community colleges deliver a wide range of certification-oriented classes with access to well-equipped computing labs for something on the order of $50 an hour and sometimes less (un- or under-employed workers seeking to retrain or retool may be eligible for low-cost/no-cost access to such classes, in fact). With a quick hop to my local outlets — at Austin Community College – I see offerings for certifications from Apple, CompTIA, Cisco, IBM, ISC-squared (CISSP), Microsoft, Oracle, the Project Management Institute (PMP), and the Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA).
All of the power of higher education, training, and certification, at bargain prices.
[Image credit: Shutterstock 59541286]
It’s true that a course at a community college will typically run over an entire quarter (11-13 weeks) or semester (up to 21 weeks). Thus, you get your training spread out over a longer period, with less intense learning and more periodic exposure to your instructor and the learning lab. But if you can stand the more leisurely pace, you will probably pay less than half what that training would cost at a typical commercial training center or in a boot camp environment. That’s a great value for your money, and something a great deal more accessible and affordable to aspiring and practicing IT professionals, especially those who don’t work for an employer willing to fund (or help out with) those costs. Be sure to check out your local community college to see what’s on their IT training and certification menu. You might be surprised by what you find!
April 22, 2013 2:54 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Microsoft draws on a recent IDC survey of IT executives and hiring managers at 600 global corporations to make some very interesting claims about the state of the job market for IT professionals with cloud skills and knowledge, and to measure and forecast job opportunities for those selfsame IT pros. As you can see in the figure that dominates this blog post (available online in the Born to Learn blog as “Infographic: The Skills Gap in Cloud Technology“) the increasing movement of such businesses IT operations into the cloud also means more jobs and opportunities for cloud-savvy IT professionals, both now and in the future.
The blog post goes so far as to claim that not only do cloud-related openings manifest significant double-digit growth through 2015 (up to 26% increase in overall such positions available), businesses are nearly unanimous (an unheard of 92%) that there is higher demand for cloud related skills now (April 2013) than there was a year ago.
And indeed, demand for cloud-qualified IT Professionals is going nowhere but up, as the third element in the infographic tellingly illustrates: whereas 1.7 million cloud-related IT jobs cannot be filled at present (that’s just one million less than the total employment in the US Information industry in April 2013, according to the latest figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) that number is expected to balloon to over 7 million jobs by 2015 (significantly more than total US IT employment that year, even under the most aggressive growth projections possible, given current economic conditions).
Of course, Microsoft isn’t just telling you this to be helpful: they’ve got several dogs in this hunt, including a cloud track in their IT Academy program and the MCSE: Private Cloud certification as well. But there are a great many more opportunities in the cloud certification game than Microsoft by itself can bring to the table. See my Tom’s IT Pro article “Top 5 Cloud-Related IT Certifications” and Mirek Burnejko’s “How to Become a Cloud Computing Expert (From Zero to Hero)” for more information on this fascinating subject.