Concern over fragmented ICT qualifications across Europe

1 Jun 2011

Senior ICT professionals in Europe are worried that growing trends in the mobility of ICT practitioners among member states are hampered by a lack of transparency of ICT competences, certifications and qualifications.

IVI researchers published preliminary findings of the first-ever pan-European survey of 370 senior IT professionals it carried out in conjunction with CEPIS (Council of European Professional Informatics Societies) on behalf of the European Commission.

The Innovation Value Institute (IVI) hosted its third annual European Summit at NUI Maynooth, Co Kildare, earlier today.

More than 59pc of respondents were of the opinion that the number of practitioners working outside of their native country was growing.

There was recognition that a European-wide competency framework could help to resolve confusion and misunderstandings arising from certification comparisons (64pc); to facilitate better understanding of workers’ capabilities (59pc); and to provide a clear road map for career development (39pc).

“ICT is oxygen for business,” IVI founder and director of Intel Labs Europe, Prof Martin Curley told Siliconrepublic.com. “For this reason it is universal and there should be qualifications that are truly internationally accredited. This is a sector that unlike law or medicine doesn’t have localised rules and regulations.”

He said the value of IT professional mobility is something the European Commission has expressed an interest in and sits neatly with the efforts the IVI have made towards creating a ‘MBA for CIOs and IT professionals’ in terms of the IT-CMF framework.

Formal business qualifications for IT professionals

“There needs to be an appropriate competency and qualifications road maps for CIOs and IT professionals. At present, there isn’t any formal qualification.”

He has a point: after most IT or business students leave college with undergraduate or Masters degrees, the picture becomes fragmented in terms of IT professionals qualifying to work in a variety of roles with different qualifications. There are no formal qualifications that prepare IT professionals or anyone who aspires to be a CIO or drive technology strategy.

“This creates a credibility and status map. It is critically important we address this.”

This very issue is something the IT industry has been struggling with for decades, explained Richard Straub, senior adviser, IBM Global Education Industry. “It is very fragmented currently, particularly at the services side of IT. This is, of course, changing, but it is time to push a new discipline of life-long learning practice in the sector to drive fundamental skills that are practical, not theoretical.

“The skills and the technologies are so fluid and moving so fast that a dynamic qualification is needed,” Straub said.

John Shaw, CIO of Mainstream Renewables, said a lot of work is needed. “Apart from the primary degree of a university education, there needs to be a set of benchmarks created to ensure that IT people can deliver business value. Increasingly, IT professionals are expected to understand innovation and business value."

Unfortunately there is no currency to prove that the IT person can deliver business value. That’s why so many organisations chose the route to pick a non-IT person as CIO.

“When choosing a CIO, organisations have three options – take a technical person up to the role of CIO; put a non-IT person in the role of CIO but who is fully conversant with the business; and the third option, more difficult, find what are the traits for success that enables an IT person to become CIO through an assessment process. The latter is the best way to do it, but a rare one.

“The key is to create qualifications that allow an IT person to take on the mantle of delivering business value and engage with business peers. That’s much better than to be seen as a techie or as person with no background in IT and therefore no credibility,” Shaw said.

Some interesting highlights extracted from the IVI data include:

More than 59pc of respondents were of the opinion that the number of practitioners working outside of their native country was growing, however significant obstacles impeding this demographic and economic change exist.

Nearly three-quarters (74pc) of respondents said being able to compare academic qualifications and certification is an important factor in enabling job mobility across national boundaries.

There was recognition that a European-wide competency framework could help to resolve confusion and misunderstandings arising from certification comparisons (64pc); to facilitate better understanding of workers’ capabilities (59pc); and to provide a clear road map for career development (39pc).

Overall, the level of awareness of current European-wide competency frameworks was low (fewer than 17pc) suggesting opportunities exist in the future for organisations that are able to harness these frameworks successfully.

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist. He joined Silicon Republic in 2002 to become the fulcrum of the company’s news service He was recipient of the Irish Internet Association’s NetVisionary Technology Journalist Award 2005 and Siliconrepublic.com has been awarded ‘Best Technology Site’ at the Irish Web Awards seven times. In 2011 he received the David Manley Award commending him for his dedication to covering entrepreneurs. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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