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Need a career boost? Get certified
GA reader Manish Purang
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September 21, 2007

One of the major concerns of the IT/ITES industry today is the scarcity of skilled resources. Shortage of talent has been plaguing the growth of the industry in recent times.


However, India's famed talent pool received the much-needed boost when the Nasscom report of 2006 listed concrete plans by the apex body and the government to build upon the existing skill base of the country.


Some of the major initiatives planned to address the potential demand-supply gaps included comprehensive skill assessment and certification programmes for entry-level talent and executives (low-middle level management). (Source: Nasscom Report, 2006)

An increased supply of talent as a result would therefore lead to competitive demands from each and every professional. A typical professional would be expected to exhibit competencies fitting multiple roles and responsibilities.


So if you think being proficient in multiple skills isn't in your best interest, think again. Gone are the days when one was expected to master only a particular skill set which was required in every-day work.


Today, as you move higher up the corporate ladder, there is a growing need for you to, if not master, at least gain a fair amount of proficiency in areas other than your core competency. And that's where certification programmes offered by various bodies come in.


Certifications like the NCFM by the NSE, Six Sigma certifications (with hierarchy of levels from green belt to black belt), the PMI certification for project management, the APICS certifications for operations management and a whole lot of technical certifications like the OCP and CCNA are among the few that have increasingly found favour with the growing professional base in India.


Recognising the growing potential of a booming knowledge industry in India, global certifications' interest has also increased in the local market. Securities and Investments Institute (SII), the UK's largest and most widely respected professional body that offers specialised examinations and qualifications to practitioners in the securities and investment industry recently launched its office in Mumbai.


The rationale behind the certifications is simple and benefits manifold. Certifications provide the necessary knowledge inputs required for a desired role or responsibility. Any role or responsibility requires a certain level of competency, be it the domain specific competency, process centric competency or technology specific competency. A need for any of these inputs, as identified by an organization or an individual herself, can be met via the certifications route.


For instance, the NCFM certifications (primarily intended as one of the prerequisites for becoming a registered broker with the National Stock Exchange of India) are now being sought by professionals with non-finance backgrounds working for global financial majors.


In fact, many of the global investment majors insist upon NCFM and SII certifications before allowing a professional to work on their systems. APICS certifications for operations management cater to the huge and immensely crucial supply chain market.


Certifications from APICS, NSE, and SII provide the necessary domain-specific inputs that are needed for an individual. Others such as the six sigma certifications cater for the process improvement skills that are needed across industries.


A growing economy, like that of India, therefore provides a huge market potential for such certifications. Industries such as manufacturing and the IT are among the major customers. Shortage of relevant functional knowledge mars the growth of a typical IT professional.


While the technical competencies of these IT professionals can be developed in-house by companies, specialised business and functional knowledge can be attained through certifications. A large number of organisations even sponsor professionals going in for such skill enhancement initiatives.


Clearly the benefits accrued by going for such a certification are huge. For a working professional, it provides a tangible, cost-effective way to increase his/ her skills proficiency. A majority of the certifications do not involve a huge effort since they may be taken up part time. This prevents the loss of the primary income source.


The newly acquired competencies provide employees or professionals with an opportunity to move into newer fields and domains.


As a result, the certifications have become immensely popular as is evident from long waiting periods, which may extend to a couple of months for some of the certifications, before you get a test date.


There are test centres across the country that facilitate the test administration. Tests for NSE and APICS certifications are conducted in all the major cities. A large number of organisations also encourage their employees to get certified by providing the relevant support infrastructure such as the training faculties and facilities. Certifications have also become an important tool in an organisation's employee retention plans.

When it comes to validity, the certifications have varying periods. While the NCFM certifications have a five-year validity, others such as APICS have lifelong validity. Then there are others such as the PMI certifications, which require you to teach project management for a specific period of time.


So, are you better off getting yourself certified?


Certainly. Though certifications cannot replace the traditional courses offered under various disciplines, they provide a framework for identifying the skills needed for different industries. They also establish centres of competency for imparting the necessary training, impart the relevant skills and finally certify the trained resources on the identified skills.


In this process, they lend credibility to an individual's capability, in him/ her claiming to be proficient in a certain area though this may be restricted only to the guidelines laid out in the certification process.


In essence, certifications help bridge the gap between "what you have" and "what you need".

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