Thursday, March 17, 2011

Certification – is it worth the bother?

With the big Automate show fast approaching, some of you may be considering taking the AIA’s “Certified Vision Professional” test. But should you? What’s it going to do for you?

Well, speaking as someone who achieved his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification some time ago, I’m a big fan of certification, in principle anyway. When a certification is hard to get, it counts for something. It’s a badge that shows subject matter mastery and it conveys authority. (LabVIEW certification is a good example of a certification program that has real value.) As a side benefit, certified professionals tend to command higher salaries since their skills have been subjected to formal evaluation.

But there is also a downside, and I’ve seen this with the PMP process. Because certified practitioners are paid more, a whole PMP exam prep industry has sprung up. This means there are people sitting and passing the exam who know the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (what we PMP’s call the PMBoK,) from cover to cover but have no experience of actually putting it to work. All certification proves, in their case, is that they’ve studied the material and know the answers to give.

(As an aside, it occurs to me that this might be partly a function of the multiple choice nature of the PMP exam. There’s a technique to this kind of testing that can improve the odds, which, in my humble opinion, devalues the whole scheme. A better solution, I feel, would be to use essays and interviews, but of course that is much more expensive.)

But back to the AIA’s CVP certification scheme. There is more to this than just handing out gold stars to those who pass. The AIA intend certification of individuals to be but one step in a process of certifying integrators.

That’s correct. The AIA is planning to introduce an integrator certification scheme, the objectives being to help steer automation buyers away from the “lowest bid wins” scenario while at the same time creating a skills-based barrier to entry to the profession.

These are great goals and I wholeheartedly support them, but as you might expect, I have one proviso.

The reason PMP certification has become so valuable is that the Project Management Institute has done a fantastic job of promoting it. HR professionals the world over know that requiring job candidates to have PMP certification automatically winnows down the field of applicants to those who have a good grounding in the principles of project management (or who are really good at taking tests!)

So if CVP and integrator certification are going to have any value the AIA will have to push them hard to all sectors of manufacturing. I don’t doubt their commitment to doing this, I just question whether they really have the resources. Perhaps, at the end of the day, it will come down to how effectively they can get the word out.

I’d really like to see CVP and integrator certification schemes succeed, but for now I think I’ll hold off on taking the test until I can be more confident there are some tangible benefits for yours truly. How about you?

1 comment:

John Salls said...

I took the basic level test about a year ago and just finished taking the advanced course (not sure if I passed or not yet). I would have to agree that at this point the certification does not have a lot of weight yet. I would suspect the majority of my customers do not know what the test is, or place any value on it. Part of that responsibility is with the AIA, but of equal value is that we promote the certification. To be honest I have not pushed it to my customers because I only had the "Basic" certification. To be blunt, telling my customers I was "Basic" level wouldn't buy me a whole lot of credibility with anybody. But as we begin to promote that certification and hopefully leverage it, it will get more meaning. In other words, part of the reason the PMP has merit is that people who have it have asked for and gotten higher salaries as a result of it. As I pioneer, I don't expect that it will immediately reward my efforts, but hopefully it will pay off in the long run. I am sure the first PMP people were the same way.

As far as anybody else taking it, I have a hard time promoting it as an immediate requirement as I do not believe it will immediately affect your bottom line. But if you have the time and money to do it, I felt the classes they had associated with the test were outstanding and worth the investment. Time will tell if the test was worth it, but at least I have demonstrated I am committed to Machine Vision. Hopefully that is worth something!!!