The Vital Role Of Certification In Education
Certification Magazine|January 2020
Educators and employers are using certification to build tomorrow’s tech workforce
Travis Wilde

More than ever, technology certifications are changing the way that middle schools and high schools are approaching information technology (IT) education and student training. Students are being prepared to walk into IT jobs and succeed at a high level immediately upon receiving a high school diploma.

Certifications and credentialing have become a driving educational force for many U.S. states as tech firms collaborate with departments of education to meet the increasing demand for skilled labor in the IT and computer science fields. These collaborations are breaking the traditional mold used to create productive tech workers.

In the past, newcomers with IT or computer science aspirations were considered career- and job-ready only after attending a four-year college or university. In 2020, higher education is no longer viewed as being the sole means by which students can obtain the high-level IT skills needed to embark on a successful IT or computer science career.

Building a new IT workforce

Alabama is a great example of a state where education is working with industry to prepare students for highskill high-demand jobs. The mini-metropolis of Huntsville (pop. 194,585), in particular, is an emerging tech hub that has recently captured a great deal of national attention, especially when it comes to producing skilled cybersecurity professionals.

Employers are in desperate need of job candidates who possess 21st-century tech skills. Russ Willett, who teaches at Columbia High School in Huntsville, acknowledges the need for his students to prepare for IT certification exams. Well aware of Huntsville’s burgeoning reputation, Willett has made it a priority for students to leave his program with multiple IT certifications.

In response to a push for even more cybersecurity education programs across the state, Governor Kay Ivey announced in January 2018 the formation of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. This high school, based in Huntsville, will lead Alabama’s charge to attract cybersecurity and engineering firms with a steady supply of new talent.

The new school, however, is hardly Alabama’s only advantage. Russ Willett and other teachers across Huntsville City Schools, and in neighboring school districts, are already preparing students in networking, basic information security, and advanced security concepts. Savvy teachers are using technology to teach technology, taking advantage of the latest advances in online instruction delivery.

Training with technology

In talking about his program at Columbia High School, Willett said, “I have students who already know they want to work smarter, not harder. They just need the training and opportunity.” That’s what drove Willett to connect with Utah-based IT training and certification provider TestOut. “TestOut provides us with an affordable and effective tool for training. That, combined with industry experience, prepares our students to take their first steps in the industry.

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