A resume addendum highlights an employee's capabilities and influences their paycheck. A CISSP here or a PMP there elevates job candidates seeking highly compensated roles in the tech world.
More than bragging rights, top certifications vet an employee and give confidence to an employer that security or compliance demands are met.
They're a talent differentiator in an industry filled with IT upstarts. While individuals can pursue accreditation, usually businesses will contract with training and certification organizations, particularly in heavily regulated industries such as finance or government.
In the coronavirus pandemic, training and certifications became even more important — the network was distributed, throwing corporate presets out in favor of at-home technology hubs.
But the technology certifications and training sector is a business like all others. "The pressure we feel is no different than the pressure" others are feeling, Brad Puckett, global product director, cybersecurity at Global Knowledge, told CIO Dive.
Global Knowledge saw an overall drop in training demand, during the early stages of the pandemic. Demand is returning, and is expected to reach par ahead of growth in 2021, mapping macroeconomic trends, a company spokesman told CIO Dive.
With about 3,000 course codes, the training company is insulated in part by its vast portfolio. "It's a lot of business across a lot of business," Puckett said.
As seen in other sectors, the training and certification business had to adapt. Training sessions previously held in-person shifted to a virtual setting. Testing also flipped online with remote proctoring.
Traditionally a classroom-based organization — where classes would take place in "football stadium cities" — Global Knowledge converted the "vast majority" of training to virtual sessions, Puckett said. With that came very little drop off in training demand.
The same was true for CompTIA and its certifications arm. Any drop off stemmed from getting online testing set up, James Stanger, chief technology evangelist at CompTIA, told CIO Dive. The number of certification exams delivered have been "very close" to what they were year-over-year.
And CompTIA testing is trending 120% over expectations, he said.
Why demand persists
Part of the sustained demand in training and certifications lies in who the industry serves.
One of Global Knowledge's customers is a financial institution which handles over $1 trillion a day in transactions and has a 600 person cybersecurity team. "I guarantee you" their investment in training and certifications has not gone down, Puckett said.
Privacy, financial or healthcare compliance does not go away just because staff are remote. And security has remained imperative.
Business plans may have pivoted, but certain customers "doubled down," Scott Cassity, managing director of the SANS Institute, told CIO Dive. SANS Institute cybersecurity training works in tandem with GIAC certifications and during the pandemic, education resources remained in demand or even increased.
While some organizations are conserving cash, funding remains for training in cloud security and remote support, according to Stanger.
The widely distributed workforce requires companies return to the fundamentals and support an array of devices. In the last decade, networks adapted to support diverse devices, from smartphones and tables to Linux, Mac or PC computers.
Device diversity was already present, but once remote, employees no longer exclusively relied on company-issued systems with a certain version of software, Stanger said. Enterprise support had to adapt and is using emerging tech to manage more diverse devices, which requires people to understand fundamental technology concepts and best practices.
Companies are asking people to understand the essentials of networks, database and security. With the basics at hand, employees can handle constantly-changing emerging technology.