The call for IT workers in the Philippines to get professional certification has not fallen on deaf ears, says one industry observer.
Roselle Reig, general manager of Global Knowledge Associates, a Philippines-based IT training provider, told ZDNet Asia that IT professionals are getting certified, and the extra credentials help to open up more career opportunities.
"Based on feedback and observations that I've been getting in the past several years, Philippines is one of the Asian countries with a high number of certified professionals," Reig said in an e-mail.
"This is the reason why most of the Filipinos were recruited outside of the Philippines--they are technically competent and they have all the certifications to back it up. We have a lot of overseas Filipino workers in the IT field."
Emphasis on professional certification, according to Reig, begins in school.
"In the universities and colleges, it is already required--or at least being implemented--that all graduating students incorporate vendor training and certification in their curriculum," the industry veteran said.
"Thus, upon graduation from a bachelor's degree, most are already CCNAs (Cisco Certified Network Associates), MCPs (Microsoft Certified Professionals), or SCJPs (Sun Certified Java Programmers)."
On whether professional certification costs are prohibitive in the Philippines, Reig said: "The cost of certification is not the main reason for not getting certified. The fact of the matter is that a lot of professionals seek certification, even when the certification market was just starting out."
In the Philippines, a Microsoft certification exam is said to cost about US$80, while Cisco certification and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) costs about US$150 and US$250, respectively.
"I believe these are relatively on par or even lower compared with other neighboring countries," Reig said. "However, due to the economic crisis experienced by Filipinos, these exam fees appear to be expensive, if it is to come from the examinee's pocket. In most cases, our trainees are sponsored by their employers, thus, the cost of certification is perceived as relatively cheap."
If cost is not a factor, then why are some professionals giving certification a miss? "It would most likely be that these people already lack the confidence in exam-giving bodies," Reig offered.
Highlighting the disillusionment that some might have toward certification, she explained: "They are aware that 'paper' certified professionals are a dime a dozen. [Some] pass the exam with their eyes closed, because of exam leakage on the Net. This has created disappointment for a lot of professionals who are really serious about their profession and getting certification."
Reig's company, Global Knowledge, trains about 30 students every month, and one quarter gets certified. Based on the company's enrolment figures, the three most popular IT certification courses are Cisco and Microsoft technology related, as well as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).
Michael Mudd, director of public policy for Comptia Asia-Pacific, agreed that cost is not a barrier to IT certification in the Philippines.
"I have spoken with one of our partners in Manila who has run an event called CertifyIT! for the last three years now, and their vendor partners dramatically reduce the cost of training and certification, to the point of giving it for free. Therefore, it is incorrect to cite cost as the obstacle," Mudd told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail reply.
"[Cost] has been used as an easy excuse to not dig deeper and appreciate the benefits of certification. Once people are made to recognize the return on investment (ROI) and given the right training or certification provider who will make sure that the candidate gets the proper guidance and professional advice, the candidate might not even need employer support to opt to get certified.
"The biggest cost is in training, and not the certification per se, which is a validator of the training program," he added.
According to ZDNet Asia's IT Salary 2006, the Philippines had the lowest proportion of respondents, who hold at least one professional certification, compared to the other six Asian countries surveyed. Twenty-five percent of the 401 respondents from the country hold at least one professional IT certification, compared to 47 percent in Hong Kong, 44 percent in Singapore, and 34 percent in Indonesia.
In the survey, no single IT vendor dominated the most popular certifications in the Philippines. The most popular were Microsoft Certified Professional, Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 and Cisco Certified Network Associate.