ICS launches Chartered IT Professional qualification

6 Apr 2011

IT professionals in Ireland can now attain chartered status. The Irish Computer Society has obtained the licence to award its members with the certification, in a move intended to put its members working in IT on a similar footing to peers in professions like accountancy or surveying.

Chartered IT Professional (CITP) certification is intended to show holders have a breadth of knowledge in IT, specific competence in an area of expertise and an understanding of the business. The ICS said it hoped to establish the IT profession as respected and valued for its contribution to business and the wider economy, while giving a more structured career path for holders. “What we’re trying to do is have a business-focused profession rather than being a silo of activity for the individual,” ICS chief executive Jim Friars told Siliconrepublic.com.

CITP status is awarded through a process that combines education, experience of typically more than 10 years working in IT with recent experience at level 5 SFIA (skills framework for the information age) or above, a 75-question multiple choice test on IT and its application, and a peer review by interview with two assessors. Once awarded, CITP certificates of competence must be periodically revalidated every five years. “For this to have value, it must have rigour,” Friars commented.

Many people working in IT can count more than a decade’s experience, but with no formal accreditations to show for it. While CITP is partly aimed at people like that, its remit “goes much deeper than that”, said Friars. He added it’s not intended just as a technology-specific qualification like a Cisco or Microsoft accreditation is, for example. Instead CITP applies across all industries and spans public and private-sector organisations, as well as IT vendors and service providers.

Who can obtain CITP?

The certification is initially open to the 3,500 ICS members, although Friars said it is possible to join the society in order to obtain CITP. ICS is the first organisation to receive the licence to award CITP status since the original licence holder, the British Computer Society, decided to make the accreditation programme more widely available to groups in other countries.

CITP will fully open for applications from Monday, 18 April, and sample tests will be available shortly through the ICS website. The society hopes to award the first group of Chartered IT Professionals around the time of its AGM in the autumn.

The ICS has campaigned for years to improve the standing of IT pros. As recently as 2007, it found that one in five Irish organisations were setting IT budgets without any input from the people tasked with implementing them. Friars said regular surveys of members highlighted that many IT professionals had been looking for a way to differentiate themselves in the market.

“The reason why this is different is because it has been vetted through employers. We didn’t just want to create a stamp that means nothing,” added Friars. Becoming chartered confers the right to use the letters ‘CITP’ after the person’s name and the CITP logo on personal stationery and business cards. Holders can also consent to having their names included on a public register of IT practitioners which is available to potential clients and employers.

A welcome qualification

Veronica Rahneberg, practice lead with the IT consulting group at Fujitsu Ireland, welcomed the development. “I would absolutely embrace anything that enhances the standing of IT professionals and ensure quality of delivery of service,” she said. “I think (a qualification like this) is more relevant than ever, because our customers are always asking about more effective ways of delivering IT and better value for money, so if you’re going to use a higher quality of IT professional, obviously that will bring advantages.”

The accreditation comes just as the market is seeing good levels of recruitment activity for IT roles, according to Leanne Nettleship, IT and temporary and contract manager with the recruitment agency Robert Walters. “Candidates more often in demand are those who can demonstrate supporting qualifications to their chosen career path.”

Last year, reports surfaced that some employers were only interviewing candidates with certain IT qualifications, as a way of whittling down applicant numbers during the recruitment process. Nettleship added that employers would welcome a professional qualification like CITP when hiring for technical roles as it would allow them to transparently select suitably qualified professionals into their business. “ACA and ACCA – to name just two found within the accountancy profession – could be likened to what CITP is setting itself up to be. Both hold a high value to candidates and clients, ensuring candidates are qualifying themselves with a recognised qualification within their chosen profession, and for clients who wish to employ suitably qualified people within their business.”

The Innovation Value Institute at NUI Maynooth is another organisation promoting increased professionalism in IT – and it’s driven by Irishman Martin Curley, Intel’s global director of IT innovation. Friars said the chartered accreditation is intended to dovetail with joint efforts of the ICS and IVI. He said CITP is aimed at the individual, while the IVI’s remit is to give a roadmap for organisations to recognise the business value that IT provides.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic