Many organizations require industry certification as part of their learning strategies, particularly for IT professionals. Certification programs provide a means of verifying the knowledge of employees through a high-stakes assessment. Common certifications include the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) for professionals working with Microsoft technologies and the A+ from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), which verifies the skills of computer technicians. Sears, Roebuck and Co. recently announced that its Sears Connected Home installation integrators will be required to earn CompTIA’s Home Technology Integrator (HTI+) certification.
Sears Connected Home specializes in wiring new homes to support home theater and computer systems. The new certification requirement will ensure that integrators have been trained in the best practices of installation and integration for networked homes. Sears is an original cornerstone of the HTI+ certification, helping to fund the program and support it through the development process.
Carl Bowman, the certification program manager for CompTIA who heads up the HTI+ certification program, said that Sears is looking to penetrate this growing marketplace. “To do that, they’re obviously looking for competent individuals to get the job done,” he said. “We believe that HTI+ definitely fills a role in the industry, and it fills a need. Nowadays, if you have an electrical problem, you can call an electrician. If you have a plumbing problem, you call a plumber. But as we move into this new industry where we’re going to be connecting home appliances and security systems and all kinds of other entertainment systems into a network through our computers and the Internet and accessing all of this, you’re going to need to be able to call someone who has expertise in all of those areas.”
HTI+ certified individuals will have that expertise. “The certification covers all of the competencies in those areas so that anybody who goes through the necessary training and gets the experience and gets the certification should be qualified to perform both installations and integrations in the connected home,” said Bowman.
And the connected home is not just a mirage on the horizon. It’s a fast-growing industry. According to recent research from In-State/MDR, there were 9.2 million installed home networks in the United States and Canada in 2002. That number is expected to grow to more than 28 million by the end of 2007. And worldwide, the study shows that the market is forecast to grow from $1.8 billion in 2002 to $5.3 billion in 2007.
Companies that want to take advantage of this growing market will benefit from requiring HTI+ certification as Sears has done. “It’s a competitive advantage without a doubt,” said Bowman. “If you have certified employees, especially in this marketplace as a new, growing area, you want to be the first one out there with the competency and having competent employees because that can also be marketed as a competitive advantage.”
The HTI+ certification was developed jointly by CompTIA and the Internet Home Alliance (IHA). In addition to Sears, many other major players in the market were involved in the development of the certification, including Best Buy, Cisco Systems, CompUSA, Gateway Computer, Honeywell International, Panasonic and Whirlpool Corporation.
The benefits of a certification like the HTI+ can flow in two directions, according to Bowman: down to the employee and up to the employer. Employees benefit by having proof of their professional achievement, he said. “It enhances their job opportunities. It’s a launching pad to additional certifications, and also it’s a launching pad into this new career opportunity.”
For employers, having certified professionals can save money for the business and the consumer. “From an employer’s standpoint, it basically represents lower training costs, reduced hiring risks and a uniform technical competency standard to adhere to,” said Bowman. In addition, with the HTI+ the company saves money by having one person skilled to perform a job that previously required multiple professionals.
“Right now you have to send out several different individuals to do these kind of installations, which basically costs the companies a lot of money as well as the home owner,” explained Bowman. “If you want to get the job done, you’ll have to be sending out several different individuals to do different components of the installation. So the goal for the industry as it grows and moves forward is obviously to cut those costs by having one individual that has at least the base level of knowledge and expertise to go in and do a lot of the installs and integrations. That way you don’t have to do so many truck rolls, which cuts your costs and cuts the costs to the home owner.”
Another benefit of incorporating a certification requirement into the company’s learning initiatives, said Bowman, is that it provides validation of that individual’s skills and expertise. Because certification requires a monitored, proctored exam, it provides more proof of skill than a simple statement on a resume. “It’s not something that’s taken lightly or is offered over the Web or anything like that,” said Bowman. “You have to go to a Prometric or VUE testing center and sit for the exam, so it’s valuable from the standpoint that it is really testing the knowledge required to do a specific job.”
For more information on CompTIA and its certification programs, see http://www.comptia.org.
Emily Hollis is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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