New-style Microsoft certification poses challenges

A raft of changes and a new tiered structure are forcing trainers to adjust their programmes

Training providers and businesses are grappling with Microsoft’s “New Generation of Certification”, which will eventually replace the current MCSEs and MCSAs.

Microsoft announced a raft of changes to its certification programme and structure way back in November 2005 but only now is it working its way through the training sector. The so-called “New Generation” features a three-tiered structure of Technology Professional plus Architect-series credentials.

Mike Hadley, general manager of corporate training solutions for Avonmore, says people can’t keep up with the pace of change with Microsoft’s qualifications. Instead, firms would still rely on staffer’s knowledge whether certified or not.

Grant Burley, director for recruiters Absolute IT says that as the Microsoft world becomes more complex, specialisms are necessary. Microsoft certifications give IT professionals “the edge” in gaining work or pay rises, but the new credentials may cause problems for trainers, possibly leading to a lower take-up.

“It’s all about perception. If Microsoft doesn’t educate the IT population, not just the technical people, then they will not be seen as valuable or an asset to employment or career development,” Burley warns.

Others spoken to in the industry were more positive.

Tim Regan, training manager for Auldhouse, says as Microsoft offers a wider and more complex range of products, it is no longer reasonable to expect an IT staffer to know and be able to manage everything.

Auldhouse already offers many courses supporting the new credentials, which he says will emphasise specialist skills.

“The MCSA and MCSE certifications are still as valuable as ever but are perhaps not ideal to showcase the skills of a Sharepoint specialist for example. The MCTS certifications fill the gap,” Regan adds.

ACE training manager Trevor Carman says the changes “align the qualifications better to job descriptions and roles out in the market.”

AMES CEO George Marr also supports the new credentials, which he will soon offer.

“They will allow the students to get the training necessary to do the jobs they feel more comfortable in,” he says.

Marr says Microsoft is co-operative and will help his firm deliver the new credentials properly. The company sits on AMES’ stakeholder committee, helping it devise courses and moderate exams.

The new credentials were no problem for AMES and it showed Microsoft was “moving with industry”.

Microsoft New Zealand’s SMB and partner group director, John Bessey, says the new qualifications are designed to “emphasise both the primary technology skillset and the role of the individual.”

Bessey says such targeted qualifications will also help firms better identify which potential employee also has the skills they need. A proliferation of general credentials are fueling confusion, he says.

The three series of credentials are: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) which validates core technology and product skills such as how-to or implementation skills; Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) which validates specific job roles outside of the core technology, such as operational processes and analysing business problems.

Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) validates the skills that are required to successfully affect business IT, including technical breadth, technical depth, communication, strategy, organisational politics, process and leadership.

Bessey says the old MCSEs, MCSAs and other qualifications will still be recognised as long as they remain in demand, and current certification holders need not renew their credentials. Transition programmes are already under way. Microsoft says it consulted widely the industry about its changes and has already informed its training partners, so they can inform their customers.

Microsoft certification will also be raised at this year’s TechEd in New Zealand, with Trika Harms zum Spreckel, MCP Communications Manager from Redmond, also providing counsel on Windows server certifications, in-market certifications, and e-learning.

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