Calgary school gains CIPS accreditation

Calgary’s Mount Royal College has earned national accreditation from the Canadian Information Processing Society for its Bachelor of Applied Computer Information Systems and Business

program, one of many schools lobbying technology organizations every year for their seal of approval.

Interest in accreditation from the Canadian Information Processing Society has increased by 10 per cent to 15 per cent for a number of reasons, explained Gina van Dalen, manager of professional standards at Mississauga, Ont.-based CIPS.

As professional engineering associations take issue with software engineers using the word engineer in their titles, universities see certification as one way to bring legitimacy to their software engineering and computer science degrees, she said.

There’s also been a greater take-up rate of CIPS accreditation because software engineering programs, which are new compared to traditional compuer science ones, have turned out their first graduates over the last three years, Van Dalen said.

CIPS accreditation for technology professionals is “”quite well-accepted and adopted”” at the college level, said Van Dalen. CIPS offers certification to 90 per cent of colleges, not including ones in Quebec, which have not embraced the practice perhaps because of cultural differences, and Newfoundland, which wants accreditation of both private and public post-secondary programs. She said most accreditation agencies look only at privately-funded programs. Ontario only recently allowed third-party certification of technology degrees and diplomas.

CIPS said it rejects only one per cent of candidates because they don’t meet criteria revolving around faculty, resources, curriculum and administration.

Judy Gartaganis, chair of the department of computer sciences and computer information at the college, said Mount Royal is the second educational facility after the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton to receive CIPS accreditation for an applied science degree.

CIPS’ Information Systems Professional (ISP) certification, which graduates of colleges and universities can apply for after completing a certain number of years of work experience, is seen as “”an additional quality improvement process that provides sort of an independent peer review”” by judges from across the country, said Van Dalen.

Some employers specify they want someone either with an ISP designation or who’s eligible for it, while other employers do the background checks on their own and don’t include the stipulation, Gartaganis said.

Provinces like Alberta recognize to a greater degree the ISP certification, with the provincial government requiring IT staff members to graduate from an accredited program or have an ISP, Van Dalen said.

Apart from CIPS and similar organizations, vendors like Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle also offer students accreditation. “”The tougher it is to get the certification, the more it means obviously,”” said Herbert Hess, president of Hess Associates, an IT recruiting firm in Toronto.

But some courses might be better run than others, suggested Hess. “”I’ve heard some complaints from people who teach the Microsoft courses (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and Microsoft Certified Professional designations) that people…read through the manuals and have no idea what they’re doing, but they can pass the course and be certified.””

Although accreditation is “”nice to have,”” work experience is far more important, he explained. “”Companies are looking for people who can hit the ground running. They don’t have time to train people.””

But employers do look favourably on out-of-work IT professionals who, instead of “”doing nothing or working at McDonalds,”” have returned to school to upgrade training and receive accreditation, Hess said.

Businesses are also attracted to employees who have well-rounded skills that can solve the company’s problems and not just address technical issues, said Hess. And this is why in the late 1990s, schools like Mount Royal added a significant business management component to their applied science degrees.

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