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Alastair Revell is the Managing Consultant of Revell Research Systems, a Management and Technology Consulting Practice based at Exeter in the United Kingdom.
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The material published in this web log is for general purposes only. It does not constitute nor is it intended to represent professional advice. You should always seek specific professional advice in relation to particular issues. The information in this web log is provided "as is" with no warranties and confers no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.

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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I think one of the long term problems that faces the IT profession is how we train new entrants to our profession. Established professions, such as law and surveying, have long had well-defined routes that graduates can take to become qualified.

For instance, in England and Wales, aspirant solicitors have a formal route in to the legal profession by first studying an appropriate degree, then completing a legal practice course followed by a two-year training contract with a legal practice before becoming fully qualified. Law is a completely regulated profession in England and Wales, which cannot be practiced unless you have a current practice certificate. Surveying is not totally regulated in the United Kingdom, but there is still a fairly well-defined route into that profession. Budding chartered surveyors usually must complete an appropriate degree, which is often followed by a training contract with an established practice while working towards the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), which usually takes two years.

In stark contrast, there is little established guidance on how to become an IT professional. For most graduates, they are left to forge their own routes with arguably the profession loosing out because of poor initial formation of skills. I believe that IT employers need to start working towards building something similar to that which exists in the more established professions. We need to establish a framework that aspirant IT professionals can follow by initially completing an appropriate IT degree at university before being offered training contracts that cover appropriate ground for the various specialisms within our profession.

I believe that the qualification that they should work towards is the Chartered IT Professional (CITP) status that is offered by The British Computer Society under its Royal Charter. Although awareness of Chartered IT Professional (CITP) status is low, it is growing and The British Computer Society (BCS) is working hard to raise its profile. In fact, the BCS is currently engaged in a process that will allow (if successful) other IT bodies to offer CITP status as an attempt to accelerate the adoption of the CITP standard, without compromising the high standards of the qualification.

The advantage for employers (and the public at large) is that it then becomes easier to separate the wheat from the chaff. Most people would rather use a Chartered Surveyor than an unqualified one. Over time, I fully expect that employers and those contracting IT services will demand that the work is done under the supervision of a Chartered IT Professional (CITP).

The IT industry has a long history of complaining that formal graduate education does not measure up to what it needs. The reality, in my opinion, is that IT employers must come to terms with the fact that we also have a role to play in the formation of our young professionals. I don’t believe we can abdicate this responsibility to the universities alone. We need to be prepared to invest in the entrants into our profession by providing them with a clear route to gaining experience in the work-place through training contracts and so rounding out their formal education into something that is much more employable.

The advantage of the CITP qualification is that it already fits inside the national professional qualification framework alongside other chartered professions, such as Chartered Accountants and Chartered Surveyors. The qualification is considered to be equivalent to other chartered qualifications by HM Government. The Chartered IT Professional (CITP) qualification also places an obligation on the holder to annually complete continuing professional development (CPD) to ensure that they keep abreast of changes and developments themselves as professionals.

The underpinning concepts are in place, but what is needed is consensus to make it happen. We must answer the question as to whether our young IT professionals deserve a career track.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008 5:46:13 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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