What CompTIA does for you

* What’s good for the information industry is good for the country

A couple of decades ago, there was a saying: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” The implication was that GM led the manufacturing sector in the U.S., and whatever GM did to make life better for its employees and customers, other people were bound to benefit as well.

Alas, that was true as long as the U.S. was primarily an economy based on manufacturing. These days, we are a knowledge economy, and our primary assets are information-based. IT is a key component in the manufacture, use and distribution of knowledge in this new economy. Maybe we should update the old saying to “What’s good for the information industry is good for the country.”

While that’s not a motto uttered by the people at the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), it almost could be. CompTIA represents the interests of the IT community, not just in the U.S. but in countries all around the world. And in its efforts to advance the IT industry, CompTIA is providing some nice benefits and services to companies and organizations - perhaps even yours - in other industry sectors as well.

You might already be familiar with CompTIA through its vendor-neutral technical certifications. Credentials like CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ are well respected by IT professionals and their hiring managers, and these credentials are sometimes listed as prerequisites in solution vendors’ certification programs. HP, for instance, uses the CompTIA Server+ credential as a prerequisite to its own Accredited Platform Specialist - HP ProLiant Servers [2005] credential.

CompTIA offers certifications in a broad range of IT topics, including networking, security, technology instruction (training), RFID, convergence, document imaging, project management, e-commerce and Linux, among others. Because these certifications don’t focus on any one vendor’s products or technologies, candidates for certification must develop a well-rounded set of knowledge in order to attain a credential, thus developing a well-rounded IT worker.

And speaking of developing IT workers, CompTIA has created some innovative programs to put more Americans into the IT workforce. The CompTIA Educational Foundation has a mission to develop qualified and productive entry level IT workers, with the hopes of eliminating the skill shortages within the industry.

I’ve written before about one of the programs, NITAS, or the National IT Apprenticeship System. NITAS gives an aspiring IT worker the chance to earn CompTIA certifications while holding an apprenticeship position with an employer. Because the program is partially sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, companies that provide the apprenticeships know their employees are being trained to industry standards using best practices. And, it’s a great way for a person to get hands-on skills via the structure of a national employee development program.

Another program supported by the Educational Foundation is called Creating Futures. This program determines the IT workforce needs of participating employers, and then trains individuals to fill those needs. The workers come from groups that are typically at a disadvantage when seeking employment, such as students, the economically disadvantaged, transitioning military, people with disabilities and minorities. The prospective workers are given training and earn certifications and hands-on experience, and then the program helps place them into long-term jobs.

CompTIA also is actively involved in developing and recommending public policies to support the interests of the IT industry. Such policies often provide benefits to constituents outside the IT industry. For example, in the U.S., CompTIA is advocating for tax credits for healthcare providers that deploy health information technology (HIT). While this would certainly accelerate the adoption of HIT, patients and healthcare service providers could benefit from, say, access to online patient records.

Other proposed policies that hold benefits for a broad audience include:

* Increased government funding to basic research and development programs at U.S. universities and research facilities.

* The adoption of platform-neutral IT interoperability standards.

* A permanent tax credit for companies researching and developing new technologies.

* Consolidation and streamlining of employment and training programs, with emphasis on the acquisition of IT skills.

* Directing more funding to math and science education in the U.S.

If these policies are adopted and implemented, then it truly could be said, “What is good for the IT industry is good for the country.”

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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