RPG Certification And Coursework Nears Completion
September 14, 2015 Dan Burger
A long overdue update to the RPG curriculum and course guide available through the IBM Power Systems Academic Initiative (PSAI) is nearing completion. The revision work puts several modern RPG enhancements into the education and certification processes, which have gone hand in hand because of a cooperative effort involving IBM and COMMON. Jim Buck, an instructor at Gateway Technical College was instrumental in the bringing forth the changes.
The revised curriculum is seen as a key piece in getting more schools to teach RPG and other IBM i topics. “The schools that are part of the Academic Initiative need something like this,” Randy Dufault told IT Jungle in an interview in November 2014. Dufault is the COMMON Certification Steering Committee chairman. The RPG certification, which goes along with the curriculum change, is the first RPG certification ever written expressly for students. The COMMON Certification Steering Committee oversees the certification development process. In this case, there are five young professionals, not far removed from their student experience, contributing to the certification test.
Buck has a prominent role on the COMMON committee organizing the student RPG certification. He also participated in writing the RPG certification written in 2007, when IBM still handled the certifications. IBM dropped RPG certification testing in 2009 and COMMON reinstituted it in 2012.
The revised certification test, Buck says, is designed to be modern, relevant, and passable. Not an easy test, but a passable test. The last of the IBM certification tests was a bear, with a pass rate estimated in the 15 percent range.
Certifications, in case you were wondering, help IT professionals establish their value and help companies in the hiring process distinguish one candidate from another. They also help companies with existing staff get the most out of personnel by encouraging the necessary training to prepare for and pass certification exams. They are used as mechanisms for measuring existing staff as well as new hires. Some companies will not hire without specific certifications. Passing the student certification will provide graduates with proof that their RPG skills are both modern and above the standards set by COMMON for an entry level programmer.
The certification and the college course curriculum are developed around “Programming in RPG IV,” a book co-authored by Buck and Bryan Meyers that is revised to include the most current RPG enhancements. The book becomes available later this month. (Make sure you get the Fifth Edition if you go shopping for this on Amazon or MCPress.)
Dufault believes the combination of the updated curriculum and the associated student certification credential brings IBM i education in line with the expectations of colleges, students, and companies that are hiring young talent. It certainly is in keeping with the idea that RPG is a modern language and that training and education should reflect that. The most prominent technical schools, community colleges, and universities that are teaching RPG are not using the outdated IBM AI-provided curriculum, which does not include modern RPG enhancements since the introduction of the IBM i 6.1, 7.1, and 7.2 versions of the operating system.
The RPG student certification testing is expected to be ready for the COMMON Annual Meeting and Expo scheduled for May 2016 in New Orleans. It will be in beta testing prior to going live.
The modernized version of the Academic Initiative RPG curriculum will be ready for distribution in October. It will include a student handbook with solutions to programming exercises, Power Point presentations, and pre-made tests that that include technologies such as the bond between SQL and RPG, service programs, subprocedures, modules, and the expanded free-form RPG, which Buck refers to as the real driver to the revision of the AI RPG curriculum and the COMMON RPG student certification.
There are 86 “active IBM i schools” in North America and another 111 around the globe, according to Peter Glass, program manager for the Power Systems Academic Initiative. IBM considers a school to be active if it is doing research on Power Systems; is using IBM’s cloud for projects and/or homework; recently downloaded AI courses; is currently developing a course/program for an upcoming semester; or is teaching IBM Power in a classroom or online.
For IT Jungle readers in the Chicago area, Buck will be the guest speaker at the Omni User meeting September 15 presenting a session titled “Failure to Modernize–The Real Cost.”
CORRECTION: This article was revised from the original, which mistakenly referred to the RPG certification as a revision of the existing RPG certification. The certification is completely new and designed expressly for students. IT Jungle regrets the error.