Vector Technology Institute Sharpens Students’ Skills with CompTIA Training & Testing

by Julie Ritzer Ross | Aug 05, 2013
Twelve Vector Technology Institute students recently earned their CompTIA A+ certification.

Twelve first-year day students in the enhanced Information & Communication Technology (ICT) program at Kingston, Jamaica-based Vector Technology Institute recently passed their CompTIA A+ exams. With CompTIA certification as well as an academic degree, the students will be ready to prove to potential employers that they have the knowledge and hands-on experience to successfully fulfill their IT job responsibilities.

Integrating Academic, Hands-On Instruction

Vector offers several bachelor and associate degree tracks, as well as certificate and diploma programs. Its vision is to play a pivotal role in improving Jamaica’s IT skills base through the development of highly competent technicians and engineers, according to Dr. Wayde Marr, executive chairman. To better realize this vision, the college last year integrated CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ training and certification testing into the ICT program curriculum for students pursuing associate-level degrees. The ICT program itself was introduced several years ago to afford students a broader perspective on the nature, use, and application of a variety of technologies, and to enable them to become true experts in technology development and deployment.

CompTIA certification training and testing were added to the two-year ICT program partially because Vector Curriculum Committee members believed a lack of certification was reducing graduates’ marketability. The need to reverse a trend whereby many students who completed IT certification classes failed to follow through by taking the appropriate certification exams also came into play, along with a desire to yield students a greater return on their tuition investment.

“We were confident that our programs covered all the relevant technical competencies, but they were not optimized for certification testing,” said Marr. He added, “At the same time, we had to admit that businesses no longer consider an academic degree sufficient to demonstrate applicants’ skills.”

Marr said Vector’s participation in the CompTIA Authorized Partner Program, designed to help academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and government retraining agencies enhance the learning experience of students preparing for an IT career, facilitated the introduction of the certification and training element into the ICT program. CompTIA’s introduction last year of the CompTIA A+ 800 series exams, including performance-based questions, simplified the integration process by closing several “significant learning domain gaps” between the objectives of the academic and certification programs, observed Marr.

Demonstrating Skills, Knowledge

While they have yet to graduate, students in the first two classes to experience the upgraded program are reaping big benefits from it, said Basil Davidson, a Vector instructor. He noted: “Certification training and testing have expanded students’ competence not only to complete task-oriented exercises and prove that they are capable of doing so, but also to develop and demonstrate the ability to analyze situations and use a rational decision-making approach while applying problem-solving measures.”

Antonnette Thomas, a day student, believes exposure to CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certification training as part of a curriculum that also features academics has prepared her far better for her planned IT career than would have been possible with traditional coursework. She said: “I’ll know what to do in a particular real-life situation. I won’t just be choosing solutions out of the air; everything will be concrete.” Fellow day student Prince Livermore agreed. He added that based on conversations with others about the demands of today’s IT environments, his CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certifications, combined with his associate degree, should afford him a much better chance of securing a job than candidates who lack practical experience and demonstrable skills.

Meanwhile, evening students Rupert Johnson and Ricardo Dowry feel very motivated to complete their studies, even after a full day of work, because of the comprehensive nature of the enhanced ICT curriculum. Neither student objects to paying higher tuition fees than would be charged for an academic or certification program alone. Noted Johnson, “The investment is worthwhile—especially considering that CompTIA certification is recognized around the world,” and, as a result, should open doors to many otherwise unavailable jobs.

Vector itself is also benefitting from the new program. Offering an integrated academic/certification curriculum sets the institution apart from others of its type and helps to cultivate more prospective students via a stronger value proposition. The latter is especially important given the Jamaican economy, said Marr, adding that the number of students sitting for certification exams is on the upswing. The group of 15 day students who registered for the CompTIA exam was the largest to do so since Vector’s inception in 1997.

He concluded, “This has been a winning proposition for us, and will continue to be as we integrate new certifications into the program."

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