By Michael Niyitegeka
In the wake of education commoditization where education qualifications have become “tradable goods” employers are finding alternative avenues of how they can gauge one’s competency besides the academic qualifications.
It is common practice to see an advert for a position of accountant with a requirement of ACCA, Network Manager requiring CCNA, Project Manager requiring PMP and the list goes on almost in all disciplines and professions. The number of professional certifications is as many as the professions themselves.
Unlike academic qualifications, professional certifications/qualifications focus on application of knowledge and experience to an extent.
With the increasing number of universities as well as qualifications it is becoming extremely difficult for recruiters to have a fair comprehension of what these academic qualifications equate to. What used to be modules are now stand alone degree programs. It is common knowledge that one’s grade has nothing to do with competency in many cases.
The other challenge is that university exams are not standardized and therefore the exam and grade are dependent on examiner and quality assurance mechanisms in that given university. Can we have national exams? That will be a horrendous task that I am not sure can be accomplished.
Studies have shown that the Return on Investment (ROI) for professional certifications is greater than 100% for both the individual and the organization. In a study conducted by the HR Certification Institute in the US in 2010 reports 253% for individuals and 216% for organizations as the average ROI for HR Certification. The same could be reported from the other professions.
I am aware that the National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) is in the process of establishing an accreditation and certification framework. The framework once in place will define which qualifications will be recognized for one to be regarded as an IT Professional.
The Government of Kenya in November 2009 amended its ICT Act, and recognized the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) Certification as the entry level computer certification designed to demonstrate competence in computer use. What that has done is eliminated the multiplicity of certificates from all sorts of computer training centers.
Majority of the job adverts that I see in the papers have computer knowledge as a requirement, however they hardly have any substantial mechanisms of assessing this knowledge. A few that attempt to give computer exams, the exam is dependent on the knowledge of the instructor.
As a country it is important that we develop strategies of getting as many of our graduates professional certified for that has to an extent impact on FDI. Professional Certification bodies have data on a country basis and thus more professionally certified individuals we have the better the visibility.
Country data is critical in decision making. For example Kenya has more than 80 ICDL accredited testing centers with close to 20,000 certifications undertaken, Uganda has only two centers with less than 100 certifications. By looking at this data I can quickly tell where I am likely to find more proficient users.
For one to become globally marketable it is important that one thinks about going for professional certification. Global workforce is a reality more than ever and largely guided by global professional standards. Make that investment it is worth the effort.
The writer is a ICDL Accreditation Consultant-Uganda
Professional certifications; can we avoid them?