[lpi-discuss] Vendor-neutral certification: pro v.s. con

Torsten Scheck torsten.scheck at gmx.de
Thu Mar 13 04:02:39 EDT 2008

Hello LPI friends:

Scott Lamberton wrote on 03/10/2008 05:31 PM:
> "Could we get some user referrals from some LPI certified people who can
> talk about the pros and cons of vendor-neutral certification?"

The advantages of vendor-neutral education/certification mentioned so far were:
 * prevent monopolies
 * vendor-neutral skills + vendor specific skills
    => more well rounded skillsets
 * matter of freedom: large topics  and tools.
 * vendor-specific certifications test the *how*.
   Vendor-neutral certifications test the *why* and are
   thus more fundamental.

Here is what I could harvest from a previously conducted literature review
on certification value. It's from my LaTeX source (\q is my direct quote
command). You find (simple) references below.

* impartiality and integrity of the certification body

Vendor-controlled certification programmes primarily aim to create
\q{knowledgeable, enthusiastic champions for their products} and additional
sources of revenue through training and testing \citep{Tittel:2003}.  This
profit motive is often seen in conflict with a certification `gold
standard'. The IT skill researcher David Foote suggests that vendors want
to make it not too difficult to get certified, whereas vendor-independent
certifications \q{exists solely on their quality} \citep{Summerfield:2006}.

* authority granted to the certificant

Any harm to certification process integrity and testing security negatively
affects the credibility of the programme and, thus, the public trust and
authority granted to the certificant \citep[27]{Adams-etal:2004}.

* adherence to certification standards

International standards for certification bodies and their programmes, such
as ISO/IEC DIS 17024 \citep{Facklam:2002} and NCCA \citep{DurleyF:2005},
demand that a programme complies with certain psychometric standards for
reliability and validity, that it complies with lifelong professional
development principles, and that its administration is impartial.
I don't know any accredited vendor-controlled certification programme.

* occupational certification vs. skills certification

Traditional professional certification programmes define a profession as
comprehensively as licensure, registration or formal vocational
qualifications.  It is conceivable that one such regularly updated
certification is all that an individual needs to succeed in the respective
profession.  IT certification programmes, however, are much narrower in
scope. They focus on technical skills without even attempting to define the
breadth of the respective profession.

The US vocational education system similarly differentiates between
occupational certification and skills certification \citep[86]{NCES:2000}.
 CompTIA's TechCareer Compass \citep{CompTIA-TCC:2006}, for instance,  maps
 100 job role descriptions to 750 IT certifications.  And as a job position
usually consists of several job roles \citep[11]{Nakayama-Sutcliffe:2005},
the certification of all required skills for a regular IT position might
involve dozens of certifications.

I see LPI pursue an occupational-like certification for Linux admins, even
though it's futile due to the complex IT landscape. For other job
positions, such as software engineers, LPIC is a skills certification.

* technology vs. product certification

Technology certification provides broad-spectrum long-term expertise,
whereas product-specific certification is highly relevant and immediately
applicable \citep[282]{Anderson-etal-hiring:2005}. Both approaches have
their value and can be combined as needed \citep{Salois:2003}.

* validity as remaining sore point of vendor-neutral certification

Vendor-independent certification bodies are sponsored by the industry to
\q{help establish certain basic levels of skill and knowledge specific to
certain job role} \citep{Tittel:2003}. They are still dependent on testing
as source of revenue and limited by their financial resources, though.
Thus, they might favour candidate-friendly and low-cost processes at the
cost of certification validity.


Professional Certification, Professional Safety 49:12, p26-31

Informing the {HR} Hiring Decision of {IT} Personnel: The {HR}
Professional's View of {IT} Certification, Education, \& Experience,

TechCareer Compass, [online] (cited 17 Sep 2006) Available from

The {NOCA} Guide to Understanding Credentialing Concepts, [online] (cited
14 May 2006) Available from

Certification of Persons ­ ISO/IEC DIS 17024, [online] (cited 21 Sep 2006)
Available from

Skills, Management of Skills, and {IT} Skills Requirement,

Vocational Education in the United States: Toward the Year 2000 [online]
(cited 12 Nov 2006) Available from

Driving Your Career: The Intrinsic Value of Certification, [online] (cited
15 Sep 2006) Available from

Certifications Versus Skills, [online] (cited 15 Sep 2006) Available from

Looking to the Future: Which Certifications Will Hold Their Value?,
[online] (cited 15 Sep 2006) Available from

Torsten Scheck <torsten.scheck at gmx.de>  Jabber:torsten at i0i0.de
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software engineer:open standards/access/knowledge:enthgnusiast

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