COMMON Reactivates RPG Certification
Published: March 26, 2012
by Dan Burger
Ever since IBM dropped its RPG certification program in 2009, the IBM i community has had one of the few programming languages without an official marker for technical proficiency gained through education and experience.
So after instigating a certification program more than three years ago and rolling out two business computing professional certifications, COMMON decided to update the abandoned RPG certification and make it available once again. It is expected to be available for the first time at the upcoming COMMON 2012 Annual Meeting and Exposition scheduled for May 6 through 9 in Anaheim, California.
COMMON has appointed a group of RPG subject matter experts to work their way through the test content, which will be similar to the IBM RPG exam but updated to include technological enhancements that have been added to the language during the past two and a half years since the test was pulled off the shelf. The organization has also contracted with Gary Moehnke, a former IBMer who developed many of IBM's certification exams, to make certain the certification adheres to the scientific standards of testing, which is referred to as psychometrics.
Professional certifications must be able to prove their intent to be a true measure of knowledge and experience. The tests need to be tested to weed out questions that aren't measuring what's intended and that the passing score is an accurate reflection of a designated skill level.
Certifications help IT professionals establish their value and help companies in the hiring process distinguish one candidate from another. It also helps companies with existing staff get the most out of personnel by encouraging the necessary training to prepare for and pass a certification exam.
Because RPG is confined to the IBM i community, it is not a broad certification. However, development directors at IBM i shops are typically very interested in certifications as a mechanism for measuring existing staff as well as new hires. It provides a better understanding of a person's capabilities. Some companies will not hire without specific certifications. Resumes can exaggerate.
Certifications, when proved, provide accurate and verifiable evidence of skill. The IT industry is very involved in certifications of all types and on various levels. In addition to individuals obtaining professional certifications, business partners and vendors are typically required to attain specified certifications.
The COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC) and the IBM i Large Users Group (LUG) both requested IBM to restore its RPG certification, which demonstrates the importance attached to certifications. IBM declined. Its certification efforts, as I see it, are more centralized on the business partner community than on platform-specific endeavors.
So COMMON obtained the rights to the test content (without royalty, by the way), and is moving forward to re-establish the testing.
COMMON decided, more than three years ago, to launch a certification program as a service to its members. The first certifications that became available were for professional business computing credentials.
The intent is to provide recognition of an individual's ability to properly leverage technology in a business environment, says Randy Dufault, who heads the COMMON certification committee. "These are not the traditional technical certifications that apply to programming," he says. They measure an understanding of technology, but also an ability to interact with business and conduct IT in the business framework. It is more a professional certification than a technical certification. The RPG certification will be a technical certification. It is a measurement of an individual's ability to understand a laser-sharp piece of the technology puzzle.
"When COMMON first developed this program, there was not an intention to dive into technical certification. There was a lot of technical certification out there already. IBM's decision to not continue with the RPG testing changed that landscape for at least a part of the COMMON community."
The business computing certifications were introduced at the COMMON 2010 conference. Although COMMON has not released the number of certifications it has awarded, president Pete Massiello says the organization is pleased with the interest that has been shown.
COMMON's certification exams are available at the annual conference each spring as well as at the fall conference, which this year is scheduled for September 24 through 26 in Columbus, Ohio. The organization is also making the exams available at COMMON Europe, which is scheduled for June 9 through 12 in Vienna, Austria, and at the annual local user group technical conferences. Watch the IT Jungle events calendar for information regarding local user group conferences and meetings.
The fee for taking a business certification exam is $250 for COMMON members (if you are a local user group member, that qualifies), $125 for students, and $300 for non-members. The multiple choice tests are proctored, delivered over the Internet, and must be completed within two hours.
The fee for the RPG certification has not been set at this time.
For more information on the certifications, see this COMMON brochure (PDF).
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