New Cisco Certs Aim At Networking Skills Shortage

With three recently introduced Cisco Systems CCNA concentrations, the equipment vendor takes a first step toward bridging the networking skills gap.
Posted September 4, 2008

Lynn Haber

Is more better?

When it comes to network technology certifications, industry experts say yes. With an increasing skills gap in IT in general, and networking in particular, individuals who distinguish themselves with specialized training will be at an advantage in the job market -- where networking continues to be the hottest IT job category for the fourth straight quarter, according to Robert Half Technology.

Viewing the network as the dial tone of the organization has long been a thing of the past. Today’s enterprise network infrastructure is comprised of sophisticated technology for delivering business-critical applications and services.

“This is making networking jobs more difficult, more difficult to fill and calls out for the need for specialization,” says Robert Whiteley, principal analyst at Forester Research, Cambridge, Mass.

With the recently introduced Cisco CCNA concentrations -- CCNA Security, CCNA Wireless, and CCNAVoice -- Whiteley believes the vendor has taken a huge first step toward bridging the skills gap.

According to Cisco, which commissioned the Forrester study, Closing The IT Network Skill Gap: How managers can understand and prepare for new networking skill requirements, the introduction of the associate-level career certifications aims to address the global demand for more advanced network specialists which is estimated to reach 3 million by 2012, according to Christine Yoshida, senior portfolio manager for Cisco’s Learning at Cisco organization.

“Our goal is to help businesses secure enough networking talent,” she says. The three CCNA concentrations, announced in June, all require the vendor’s CCNA certification as a prerequisite.

  • CCNA Security validates a candidate’s skills in the installation, troubleshooting and monitoring skills of network devices to maintain the integrity confidentiality and availability of data.

  • CCNA Voice validates skills in voice over IP (VoIP) technologies such as IP PBX, IP telephony, handset, call control and voicemail solutions. The concentration track also exposes individuals to Cisco Unified Communications architecture and design for mobility, presence and TelePresence applications.

  • CCNA Wireless validates a candidate’s skills in the configuration, implementation and support of Cisco wireless LANs.

    Yoshida points out that the CCNA Wireless concentration is the vendor’s first certification as a general career certification in the area of wireless.

    “In the past is wasn’t clear that employers were looking for specialists. But as wireless becomes more prevalent the timing is right to say certification can be a career changer,” she says.

    According to Forrester, between 36% and 55% of organizations surveyed have a dedicated position today for wireless, voice and security. That number is expected to grow as high as 70% in five years, says Whiteley.

    He cites the reasons for increased specialization to ubiquitous concerns about network security, growth of wireless devices to support an increasingly distributed workforce, and IP voice as a platform for greater worker collaboration.

    Frank Han, vice president at Robert Half Technology, says the CCNA certifications are great for individuals trying to break into networking or as a backup to what they’ve already accomplished professionally.

    “Certifications never hurt anyone, especially in a competitive situation. The new specializations provide an even greater advantage,” he says.

    While most agree that hands-on work experience strengthens the value of certifications, Whiteley notes that IT managers put a high value on training programs, particularly for individuals seeking an advanced IT skills position.

    At Orbitz Worldwide, Jason O’Sullivan, director of engineering, says that the key value of certifications for network professionals is gauging their unknown commodities, whether recruiting new personnel or communicating the ability of your team to a potential customer or partner.

    Finding today’s job market for network professionals tight, he says that what Orbitz looks for when hiring is individuals with true practical knowledge that is augmented with theoretical knowledge.

    “We see the new CCNA concentrations as an opportunity for team member career development,” says O’Sullivan.

    This article was first published on ITCareerPlanet.

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