The right training

I am a computing tutor, teaching New Zealand Qualifications Authority unit standards in Microsoft applications software and Windows 95. I want to move more into networks, teaching/user support for a large company.

Dear Adviser,

I am a computing tutor. I teach New Zealand Qualifications Authority unit standards in Microsoft applications software and Windows 95 to beginners on training opportunities courses. These students are challenging because they are typically lacking prior education, have low confidence and poor literacy skills.

I want to move more into networks, teaching/user support for a large company. The network I look after is a Win 95 peer to peer network, it does not give any trouble. In particular I would like to work with someone more knowledgeable in computing than myself, so I can learn from them.

Longer term, I'd like to obtain sufficient skills for contract work. I completed one contract application development in MS Access. I require more programming expertise for this.

I have a Bachelor of Commerce, which includes both information systems and accounting at final year level. Since 1996, I have been teaching computing.

I am very competent in MS applications software and Windows 95. I estimate I could pass core MOUS exams Word, Excel and Access with some practice. I am able to do minor technical tasks, for example replace disk drives and install network cards.

Other questions I have include one about the Microsoft Certified Professional Product specialist: Where can I find the specific skills required for this qualification - in any given application? Is it superior to MOUS?

Network Administration: Is there a short course to ascertain if I would be capable of training to be a network administrator in, for example, Windows 2000?

Trainer

Dear Trainer,

The key to choosing the right training for employment advancement is understanding supply and demand. Given your aim to become a "systems level" rather than an "applications or desktop level" trainer, this would satisfy both requirements.

Once you are qualified and have a track record with employers, you'll probably gain contract work in systems training fairly easily, both here and abroad. Also, being a systems trainer is a good way of gaining valuable knowledge about real world environments (students often bring in war stories about their own networks), so you can always switch out of education later.

As you have realised, you will need to gain some other qualifications to make yourself more attractive to potential employers. Given your experience with Microsoft products, I recommend completing Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) passes in at least one network operating system, and preferably complete your MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer).

Windows 2000 is a good idea, but beware, this is a huge product to learn. There will be a Windows 2000 bridging course (five days) released in New Zealand soon for those with previous NT experience, but starting from scratch you will probably need several weeks of classroom training, and possibly much longer via self-study.

Microsoft retired the Microsoft Product Specialist certification a while ago, and all Microsoft certifications have now been split up into two quite distinct programmes. All systems level certifications fall under the Microsoft Certified Professional programme, and applications level, under the Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS) programme.

The MCP "brand" is the umbrella which covers any of the other Microsoft systems level certifications, including MCSE, MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer), MCP +I, (MCP+Internet), MCDBA (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator), MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) and is aimed at network engineers, developers and trainers.

The only exams that won't qualify for a MCP pass are the Networking Essentials and TCP/IP exams, which are allegedly generic curriculum. Go to www.microsoft.com/trainingand services for the full story.

Applications level certification (Office, Access, etc), now fall under the MOUS programme, which is really only aimed at power users at its highest level, and is actually administered by an organisation external to Microsoft.

Incidentally, Microsoft Access is not seen as a high-end package, so you may be better off looking at Microsoft's SQL Server as a database product to specialise in.

If you only want to become an instructor on desktop products try www.mous.net/instructors, where there is a continually evolving programme for independent instructors. You can become an MCT (which is for systems level trainers) by attending a train-the-trainer course at a Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centre (CTEC).

To complete the course, you will need to have at least one MCP pass (increasing to MCSE by next year). You can get a list of CTEC's from the Microsoft New Zealand Web site, and they will be able to confirm upcoming course schedules.

As an intermediate route into systems training, you might consider teaching only high-end applications courses with the occasional operating system course thrown into your schedule. You'll be able to gain your wings this way and can then go on to widen your repertoire into other systems courses.

Classroom training is the most effective, but it can be quite expensive - alternatively, there are lots of good self-study materials out there, but if you are using it to prepare for exams, make sure it meets the Microsoft official curriculum exam syllabus requirements (which you can also find on the Microsoft Certification Web site).

Readers with career questions can have them answered in this column by IT recruitment specialists. Currently, Auckland-based Gybe Consulting answers your queries. Send questions via Computerworld journalist, Darren Greenwood, with "Dear Adviser" in the subject line.

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