CompTIA updates its certifications for the BYOD era
CompTIA is celebrating the twenty year anniversary of its vendor-neutral A+ certification. The A+ has long been considered a baseline requirement for IT jobs because it demonstrates a range of critical skills that extend across several IT roles and positions.
As CompTIA celebrates the certification's success, it is also updating the the A+ to incorporate a range of new technologies like mobile devices (iOS and Android) and virtualization as well as topic areas like security that have evolved significantly with the introduction mobile and cloud technologies.
The updates reflect the changing nature of IT, a point that CompTIA president Todd Thibodeaux made clear to me during a recent interview. He pointed out that the A+ and other certifications that CompTIA offers have always been focused on the needs of IT departments and that their evolution is directed by the overall technology market. As a result, there are major differences in focus between the 2013 edition of the A+ and early versions that had a strong focus on Windows and PC support and troubleshooting.
Thibodeaux also noted that CompTIA's addition of mobile and cloud topics won't be limited to just the A+. The organization is working on multiple new programs that address mobility and cloud technologies. The company recently invited subject matter experts from across the IT industry to a week-long event in Chicago to help identify topics for a mobility certification.
CompTIA has developed a program in partnership with viaForensics for mobile app developers (iOS and Android) designed to ensure they handle data and content in a secure manner. With enterprise apps expected to be one of the fastest growing aspects of mobile development and IT over the next few years, these programs could become key advantages for prospective developers and IT leaders alike.
CompTIA's entrance into mobility training is a welcome addition both because of the organization's reputation and because there's a distinct lack of training and certification programs for both iOS and Android. Some mobile management vendors have begun to offer programs of their own, MobileIron University being the best example, but vendor or product-specific options are often just that - focused on specific solutions.
Why certifications matter
The technology field has long been one dominated by certifications. They make it easy for candidates to demonstrate technical knowledge to hiring managers. Although it's good practice to dig a little deeper than just the certifications listed on a prospective employee's resume, certifications are a starting point for discussing skills and knowledge and how they have been applied in real world practices and projects.
To date, there hasn't been an option for assessing skills related specifically to enterprise mobility. Largely that's because the mobile landscape today is significantly different from three years ago when Apple launched the iPad and introduced MDM capabilities into iOS. Even in the past year, the techniques for enabling and managing the range of devices common in BYOD programs have changed from a focus on the device to a focus on apps, content, and users.
This fast-moving landscape both heightens the value of training and certification programs and explains why those programs have seemed slow to emerge. IT managers may need easy and accurate ways to assess mobile management and support skills (as well as other emerging skills), but those skills are evolving on an almost daily basis.
Challenges to certification of Android and iOS skills
One challenge for creating a broad mobile device support and management curriculum for Android devices is the sheer variety of the platform in which manufacturers can select older versions of Android as a base and they (along with carriers) can make changes to it at their discretion.
Apple, on the other hand, could easily develop a training and certification program for iOS. The company has offered various programs and certifications for enterprise and small business IT professionals over the years. Some of enterprise offerings have been downsized or eliminated over the past couple of years as Apple has adjusted its approach to enterprise customers, but a handful of options are still being offered by the company and its network of Apple Certified Trainers and Training Centers. The fact that Apple hasn't taken up the challenge is actually rather surprising.
Google made a big splash almost a year ago with its Google Glass Internet-connected eyewear. Now the search giant is ready to broaden its assault on the wearable computing market by releasing a software development kit for developers to create Android-based software for wearables.