Preparing Tomorrow's Workforce Today

Reaching for the Stars

We’re always looking for ways to encourage Computer Engineering students to pursue CompTIA A+ certification. Our courses are aligned with A+ objectives, but the exams are not required due to cost. So how do you make students see the value and go the extra mile?

During a conversation about our Moodle resources, Darlene Sanders at Myers Park High mentioned to me that she had five students sit for the A+ exams earlier this year, and all five had passed. That’s a great passing average, and getting a third of your students to take the trouble to study for and sit for the exams is a pretty impressive feat, from what I hear from other teachers.

How did she do it? Well, it helps that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools covers the cost of exam vouchers for students who have the potential to get certified. But another part of the puzzle is engaging students in the content right off the bat so they will consider IT as a career field.

Darlene says many of her students get hooked by a “dream computer” activity she has them do as the course is getting started. They research components and put together a PowerPoint presentation outlining the computer they would build if they had the resources. Some are outrageous – the most expansive graphics cards, the biggest monitors, outrageous RAM – but she encourages them to dream big and requires them to consider compatibility and other issues that introduce computer maintenance repair. “As long as it gets them excited about learning and asking questions… I know I’ve reached them.”

Next, simple awareness of the benefits of certification and the knowledge and skill requirements enables students to draw up their own ‘road map’ to achieving this goal. Making sure they understand what A+ certification is and what they need to know to earn it is key.

So is understanding what certification can do for them. First off, if they want a career in technology, A+ and its sister certification Network+ are valuable credentials for both career beginners and seasoned IT professionals. The training organization Global Knowledge has a new list of the most valuable certifications for IT professionals to hold, which places CompTIA’s A+ and Network+ near the very top. That would be good information to help encourage students!

Another point to make is that if they are going on to college, they may plan to have a part-time job to help with expenses. Working at an electronics retailer or computer repair shop certainly offers the promise of better pay than a job at a fast-food restaurant! And they’d be able to continue to develop their career skills. A+ certification can definitely help them get that first well-paying part-time job.

Are there jobs to be had in the IT industry? It’s been a tough couple of years for any career field, but the trend in IT is very positive. A brand-new report from the North Carolina Technology Association says IT job openings across the state grew by 15% in August to the highest level in more than two years. Some of the highest demand is for people with solid computer maintenance, networking and tech support skills. That should help confirm the promise of the skills IT teachers are teaching.

Robin Fred

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