Industry groups plan global IT accreditation

IT associations in Canada, Australia and the U.K. have gained Microsoft’s support in their efforts to create an accreditation for technology professionals that would be recognized anywhere in the world.

The International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP), a United Nations-founded organization with more than 85 member or affiliated IT associations, said Microsoft would share research and other resources as it tries to create the new accreditation. Under the plan, those who receive national certifications from organizations like the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) would immediately receive the new global accreditation, which is being called the International IT Professional (IITP). It would mean that employers hiring from outside the country would know a technology professional has gained a certain level of experience and expertise, and adheres to certain codes of conduct.

CIPS is working with the British Computer Society (BCS) and the Australian Computer Society (ACS) to create the global accreditation, which will be governed by a non-profit organization called the International Professional Practice Programme (I3P). The cooperative effort got underway in January when delegates from all three organizations met in Cape Town, South Africa and again in London, England in August. The associations will make further presentations to IFIP during a meeting in Montreal next month.

Roger Hart, CIPS professional standards director, said the meeting will see delegates define the accreditation process. He said IT professionals will probably be able to receive the IITP accreditation sometime in early 2009.

“I was very presently surprised that all four of the computer societies that were at Capetown were on the same page with the challenges and opportunities in their various countries,” Hart said. “Even though by and large we didn’t know each other before the meeting . . . there was very much a meeting of minds.”

CIPS was involved with Canadian federal government in GATT negotiations intended to give international mobility to IT professionals who met a certain level of certification, Hart said. The idea was to address the skills shortage some countries have said they will face in the near future around IT, and to provide better job prospects of skilled immigrants. Those talks collapsed, but the IITP accreditation may accomplish similar objectives.

John Oxley, director of community evangelism at Microsoft Canada, said the quest for a global credential is a response to skills shortages, the complexity of IT’s role in the business and the changing nature of technology itself.

“Those three changes have driven us to a need to raise that level of the profession,” he said. “You could look at other professions that have grown at a slower pace. I believe the (IT) profession right now is probably ready for it (but) it’s not going to happen tomorrow.”

Hart noted the BCS’s approach with credentials such as the Chartered IT Professional, which are now being awarded through arms-length councils including members from outside professions, such as accounting.

“Very shortly, it will be quite possible for a chartered accountant in the U.K., if they have sufficient IT knowledge and experience, to not only hold a CA, but also hold a CITP,” he said, adding that Canada and other countries could learn from that approach.

Notably absent in the effort for a global accreditation is any involvement from the United States, which did not send any delegates to the Capetown meetings. IFIP could not be reached for comment at press time.

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