It’s well-known that achieving A+ certification can give folks a leg up on employment opportunities, but in some areas of the world, the focus, direction and career mapping offered by CompTIA’s certification programs can turn an uncertain reality into a concrete career path.
A+ Down Under
“This is a step in the right direction in addressing the shortage of skilled IT professionals in Australia,” said IT instructor Adnan Syed, who first heard about the CompTIA A+ certification in 2001, when he was working as a teacher in his native Pakistan. A student told him about “a wonderful certification program” that offered employability skills. Syed never forgot those words and today champions A+ and higher level CompTIA certifications in Australia, where he’s worked for eight years.
“CompTIA A+ completely maps into the prerequisites and requirement of most employers for entry-level IT roles,” he said.
As a part-time teacher at TAFE Western Sydney Institute’s Blacktown College, a CompTIA academic partner, Syed incorporates CompTIA A+ and Cisco IT Essentials objectives into his IT classes. He encourages his vocational IT Certificate III and IV students to sit for the A+ exams using the discounted exam vouchers CompTIA provides its academic partners.
“Many of my students have disadvantages. Some are refugees, at-risk youth or welfare recipients,” said Syed. The opportunity to earn both vocational certificates and industry certifications produces IT graduates with more employability, while the industry acceptance of A+ and other certifications helps students envision and establish their career paths.
Syed hopes to introduce similar initiatives for parolees or ex-offenders. He believes helping former offenders gain marketable employment skills could reduce criminal relapse rates.
Certification doesn’t guarantee success, of course, but it does have benefits, according to Gary Duffield, who now works nearly 3,500 kilometers to the east of Syed in Perth, Australia.
“I don’t think that by earning the A+ suddenly fireworks go off and you move to the next level of your life, but it provides a level of confidence,” he said. “You know what you know, and you have a piece of paper that shows what you know.”
Duffield, Microsoft national partner manager at the CompTIA authorized training partner DDLS, earned his CompTIA A+ certification in 1997 with four other colleagues in the UK. “We wanted to prove that we knew our stuff.”
CompTIA A+ in Africa and the Middle East
CompTIA’s global impact has grown exponentially since 2008, when the vendor-neutral IT certification — introduced in 1993 — was awarded ISO 17024 accreditation from the International Organization for Standardization.
In 2012, one out of every four CompTIA’s A+ certifications were awarded to people living outside U.S. borders — a trend that continued in 2013 and is predicted to stay the course this year.
In Muscat, Oman, for example, technician Nasera Al Harthy was one of dozens of Oman Ministry of Education IT employees to earn A+ in 2012. The MOE is using CompTIA certification-centric training to improve the skills and service performance of the IT technicians working within the national school system. “It helped me a lot,” she said. “We finished college a long time ago. It was a good review and the basis for our other courses, [such as] Network+.”
A few years earlier, Siphiwe Nkuna’s fledgling IT career in the South African job market got a kick start with CompTIA A+ certification. Now an instructor for the CompTIA training partner Torque IT in Rivonia, Johannesburg, Nkuna reports that A+ is “one of the key fundamental courses that you must have especially if you want to work your way up in South Africa.”
“Once you have your A+, you can go on any path that you chose thereafter,” said Nkuna, who earned CompTIA A+ certification in 2006. “It’s recognized beyond the South African border as well.”
Nkuna and fellow Torque IT instructor Alastair Buss recently passed the 800 series CompTIA A+ exams, enabling them to teach the most current A+ courses. “I love how quickly CompTIA absorbed the mobile devices” into the A+ objectives, said Buss. “It’s powerful, especially with more companies permitting employees to bring their own devices into the workplace.”
CompTIA A+ in the Americas
As certification numbers increase around the globe, more and more companies are using A+ as the global gold standard for IT technician and helpdesk skills.
Best Buy Canada, for example, has long required its Geek Squad and ConnectPro technicians to be A+ certified. “It helps our company ensure that our computer technicians can effectively communicate with our customers and also work with computers,” said Todd Allen, who manages the Canadian Geek Squad and ConnectPro operations.
Vendors frequently require authorized service providers to have CompTIA A+ certified technicians. “If we didn’t have these certified technicians, we wouldn’t be able to provide [service] in-house,” said Allen.
Allen earned his own A+ certification in 2004 as a college student so he could advance from computer salesman to technician, working better hours at a higher wage for Future Shop, now a division of Best Buy Canada.
“At a younger age, it really helped me secure my position as a computer technician,” Allen said. “Simply studying for the exam increased my wealth of knowledge.”
Down in South America, Mario Ganem — who earned his A+ credential in 2005 while working for HP Argentina — works as an infrastructure IT architect for another behemoth in the computing industry, IBM Argentina.
“CompTIA A+ is more than a product or vendor certification,” he said. “It’s like an open source way for probing your knowledge across the technologies.”
CompTIA A+ has had strong acceptance in the Caribbean for many years, and it’s poised for growth in Mexico, as evidenced by its use in economic and IT skill development programs such as MexicoFIRST and Tec de Monterrey-CCM. The A+ also has a strong foothold in Chile, where it has been included in high visibility corporate mandates and also technical training programs offered by FRAD, Duoc and INACAP. In Latin America and the Caribbean, test-taking for CompTIA A+ is expected to double in volume in 2014.
“It’s a certification that I carry and evangelize every day with pride,” Ganem said.