New NOSes will force many back to school

With the release of Microsoft’s Windows 2000 and Novell’s NetWare 5, many certified engineers are going to be making the journey back to the classroom in order to keep their certification.

Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. have both decided that the men and women certified on their previous systems (Windows NT and NetWare 4) will have to become re-trained on the latest releases or lose their certification status all together.

People with an MCSE will have until December 2001 to upgrade, while the Novell counterparts, with a CNE, will have to upgrade by August of this year.

On top of this, Microsoft has announced that all Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCT), beginning in January 2001, will have to be certified as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) or a Microsoft Systems Developer (MCSD) in order to continue training.

Given the number of certified technicians, the decisions will be far reaching. With over 10,000 MCSEs and 7000 Certified Novell Engineers (CNE) in Canada, the schools that teach the various curricula will certainly benefit by seeing a noticeable increase in enrolment.

Although, ultimately, a systems engineer has only to take an upgrade exam (or exams in the case of Windows 2000) to become certified on the newer platforms, their inherent differences from their predecessors will necessitate some additional schooling, according to the companies.

“If you are looking at an NT 4 MCSE just getting comfortable with Windows 2000, you would be looking at about, I’d say, 10 days,” said Dan Metacovic, training and certification program manager at Microsoft in Mississauga, Ont.

Jahnis Gillian, area education manager for Novell in Markham, Ont., agrees. “There is quite a jump from 4.11 to 5.” She added that many of the CNEs are doing self study or taking a three day course to help prepare for the exams.

As for the schools, not surprisingly, the pace will pick up. “I think there will be a big boost on business as a result of the release of Windows 2000,” said Louis Florence, national program manager for CDI, an IT training institution in Toronto. “The product is a major change and the course curriculum is a very major change. The Windows 2000 curriculum is about double in size to the NT curriculum, from 13 to 25 days of training,” he added. The school has also made sure all of their MCTs are MCSE or MCSD certified, well before the January 2001 requirement date.

But is the value of the certificate enough to drive thousands back to school?

“I believe that people have historically overblown the value of certification. And I can say that as the person responsible for marketing of it here…but the training market has turned it into a premium to make money,” Metacovic said. “We have already stated this is a benchmark and there is no replacement for experience. As a potential employer I would always look at someone’s job experience in addition to certification,” Florence added.

The problem is that the piece of paper provides no guarantee the individual can do the job.

One potential worker showed up at William F. White Ltd. in Toronto with a pencil, notebook and a course manual, according to IT supervisor Lorenzo Palermo. “I thought right then and there ‘I’m in trouble.'”

The retaining plan may also have some added side effects, according to one consultant.

“Basically I think this is a great thing. I think the new Windows 2000 certification requirements are going to draw the line in the sand and start to eliminate the large number of what I call paper MCSEs that there are in the industry right now,” said Doug Welsby, president of Camber Tech Inc., a systems integrator in Hull, Que.

On the issue of upgrading the qualifications of MCTs he added, “it is no fun when you go to take a class and the instructor is only qualified in that [one] area, like an MCT only certified in SQL Server, and knows very little about any other product…they can’t expand outside of the teaching material that is being provided and can’t add much value to the class other than the delivery of the course curriculum.”

The cost to re-certify could be as low as US$100 for the CNE NetWare 5 exam, or rise to several thousand dollars if an engineer is required to take a couple of weeks of classes in order to pass all of the Windows 2000 course.