NZCS chief wants IT certification

The hot topic on my agenda, says Doug White

The new chief executive of the New Zealand Computer Society, Doug White, says professional certification is “the hot topic on my agenda”. The society should, he says, provide a means for a business to judge the competence of computer professionals before employing them.

The need for certification has periodically been raised in NZCS since at least the early 70s, White says, but the process of putting it in place has never been followed through. He is determined it will be done this time.

Details are unclear at present. Some examination structure may be advisable, particularly for certain specialisations — the Australian Computer Society model includes examinations — but White sees mentoring as probably the chief mechanism. A graduate or school-leaver entering the society would be “put under the wing” of an already certified member, who would monitor the candidate’s work and in due course tell the society consistent enough quality had been obtained for certification.

That raises the question of where the first certified members come from, but people with senior positions in IT work in reputable companies could probably be immediately certified.

Externally gained qualifications, such as certification from Microsoft or Novell or accreditation with another professional body such as the Institute of Project Management, would probably count a good way towards NZCS certification, he says. “But [NZCS members] still have to work out the mechanism through exhaustive discussion."

Continuous professional development would be an indispensable sequel to certification, to keep knowledge and skills current, White says

Engineers are required to do 50 hours a year of professional development by way of courses and the like, he says, “and I see our discipline as very similar, in that it’s general; an engineer may be building a road or a bridge” and in the same way an IT professional would develop systems for a wide range of purposes.

The membership has responded positively to the initiative, White says. “I’ve had a lot of emails encouraging me to push ahead with it.”

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