What have you got to show for your ICT skills and experience?

BICSI South Pacific

By Paul Stathis, Chief Executive Officer, BICSI South Pacific
Monday, 05 August, 2019

What have you got to show for your ICT skills and experience?

What have you got that shows your knowledge, skills and experience as an ICT professional — certificate, degree, diploma, chartered, endorsed, certified, licensed, registered, credential?

So many ‘badges’, but which one is for what purpose? You’ve probably got one or more of these badges, but are they the right ones? Many people incorrectly assume what their badges are actually for, even after the lengthy process of acquiring them.

Put simply, for our ICT industry:

  • Qualifications indicate educational achievement.
  • Credentials indicate industry achievement.
  • Certification indicates commercial achievement.
  • Licensing/Registration indicates compliance, or legal achievement.

They all serve different purposes, yet all are interrelated. Some are frequently misapplied, so let’s analyse what each badge relates to.

1. Qualifications

Qualifications indicate a level of education, not skill or experience; with the benchmarks typically determined by academia, not industry.

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) sets 10 education levels, from Certificates I-IV, to diplomas, degrees and doctorates. Our industry typically has three qualification ‘bands’ and associated education:

  • Degree (tertiary) to become an engineer.
  • Diploma (tertiary) to become a technician.
  • Certificate (vocational) to become a tradesperson.

Most people start a course before actually working in industry, so graduating with a qualification is really the start of the learning journey, not the end.

Even ‘hands-on’ certificate courses don’t provide enough time to develop expertise in specific fields. And if you’re coming from another industry, say an electrician with plenty of on-the-job skills, a Telecommunications Certificate still wouldn’t make you an expert in comms cabling. You’d need to then develop further on-the-job expertise to be truly valuable to clients.

2. Credentials

Credentials indicate knowledge and skill benchmarks determined by industry, typically acquired years after a qualification. For example, a qualified accountant can deliver financial services, but a Chartered Accountant is far better than a graduate accountant. Both are qualified, but a Chartered Accountant is deemed by that industry to be more knowledgeable, skilful and therefore more valuable than the graduate.

The same applies in ICT. Industry associations like BICSI and Engineers Australia (EA) developed benchmarks that identify credential holders as being more knowledgeable and skilful designers than their industry peers. Both require several years of verifiable experience in a specific field before sitting a knowledge-assessment exam. In recognition of the value provided by these credentials, some organisations stipulate that only BICSI credential holders or EA ITEE chartered engineers can design ICT infrastructure for their facilities.

3. Certification

Certification is a term commonly used by cabling vendors who ‘certify’ installation companies that meet their quality, technical and commercial criteria to be able to offer their extended warranties on installations. Vendors provide technical and practical training on standards, installation and testing to optimise the skills of personnel within the ‘certified’ company.

This isn’t an academic, industry or regulatory requirement like a qualification, credential or licence. It’s a commercial arrangement between vendors and installers that qualifies personnel to optimally install their cabling systems to enable them to carry lengthy performance warranties.

Many cablers confuse this with ‘endorsement’ training for cabling registration. It’s important to understand that ‘competency’ (previously called ‘endorsement’) training must be ‘mapped’ to the Australian Skills and Qualifications Authority’s (ASQA’s) vocational training program, which no certification training is at present, so they can’t be classed as endorsement training.

Certification is well worth achieving, because of the significant and discernible value it brings to both certified installers and their clients.

4. Licensing/Registration

Licensing/Registration is a legal requirement of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for individuals, not companies, to install telecommunications cabling. Getting registered requires formal education through a registered training organisation (RTO) and on-the-job experience. This provides Open Registration (often called a ‘licence’) that allows an individual to install telecommunications cabling in a commercial or residential premises. It doesn’t, however, permit them to install structured, coaxial or optical-fibre cabling. This requires further education from a recognised RTO to obtain the respective ‘competencies’. As stated above, these competencies don’t equate to cabling certification, even though their content can be similar — they have very different purposes.

What to do now?

Figure out what badges you need to do your current job, and identify what badges to which you should be aspiring to become more professional in our industry. Importantly, all of these badges involve education and tests to verify you’ve learned the right stuff. And that’s what the ICT industry needs more of.

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