Let’s End the Debate Over the Value of Certification
If you think technology certification is too expensive, time-consuming and lacks bang for your marketing buck, you're missing the point.

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February 05, 2013 By Tom LeBlanc

Every industry has its hot-button issues. In the commercial integration industry, people get pretty worked up about the value of investing time and money into achieving certification.

Commercial Integrator entered the debate with “State of Industry Certification,” as part of our 2013 State of the Industry coverage. When I assigned the piece to editor-at-large D. Craig MacCormack, I asked him to weigh the common criticisms - such as that it’s too expensive, time-consuming and clients don’t know what InfoComm, CompTIA , ESPA, BICSI , etc., are anyway - against the pro-certification arguments.

The article is informative and objective, but I’m not very objective when it comes to this topic.

This is an industry that struggles with identity. Clients can’t describe what exactly it is that an integration firm does. Integrators themselves complain about low-level competition, trunk slammers, bringing down the industry’s professionalism.

What’s more professional, more identifiable than a certification?

I don’t buy the argument that an InfoComm Certified Technology Specialist moniker isn’t valuable because clients don’t know what it means.

Why don’t clients know what it means?

Why haven’t you effectively educated prospective clients on the certifications that your technicians have achieved?

Why haven’t you made them understand what sets your firm apart from the bid-and-chase firms that threaten your profitability along with the reputation of the industry?

Technology certifications may not be high on people’s radars now, but that seems poised to change.

The White House recently sponsored a meeting at which InfoComm was among a short guest list invited to present its ANSI-certified program’s credential for an initiative aimed at getting military personnel and veterans certified. The United Veterans Learning Center works with InfoComm on its AV Heroes program that trains military veterans for a career in the industry. Meanwhile, CompTIA has its Troops to Tech Careers program aimed at getting veterans trained and connected with employers to fill the nearly 500,000 open IT jobs.

Programs like these don’t work without certification.

Meanwhile, certification levels the playing field for hardworking people who don’t have the benefit of knowing somebody who can help them carve out a career path.

There’s an episode of “All in the Family” in which Archie Bunker complains to Meathead about affirmative action, arguing that he didn’t have a parade of people protesting so that he could get his job. Then Edith chimes in with, “No, his uncle got it for him.”

Not everybody has an uncle. Not everybody has connections. But everybody has an opportunity to work toward getting educated and certified.

All this being said, I do have respect for the opinions of those in the industry - especially those at small firms - that feel forced into having to spend money on keeping their staff certified. The industry as a whole needs to do a better job of making it worth the investment by educating customers on what it means.

Easy for me to say, right? If there was an established certification program for journalism that I’d have to pay to maintain, this column might have a very different slant.

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About the author

Tom LeBlanc - Editor-in-Chief, CI,
Tom has been covering electronics integration since 2003. Prior to being named editor-in-chief of CI, he was senior writer and managing editor of CE Pro. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Follow him on Twitter @leblanctom.
View all posts by Tom LeBlanc
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