CIPS execs in Africa to discuss professionalism standards

Canadian IT professionals might one day be able to have their local certification credentials recognized in other countries following an international meeting on technology professionalism this week.

The Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) has sent two representatives to Cape Town, Africa to attend a conference convened by a United Nations-sanctioned body called the International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP). The meeting, to take place Monday and Tuesday, will also include representatives from Australia and the U.K. The group plans to review the current practices around IT professionalism and to develop an “action plan” around standardizing approaches. IFIP will be presenting a report on the results of the meeting to a global council of partners on Feb. 28.

CIPS has struggled for several years to boost the profile and adoption of the Information Systems Professional (I.S.P.) certification it first launched in 1989. About 1,500 hold the designation today, and IT industry recruiters have told Computing Canada in the past it is relatively rare to see it associated with job candidates. (CIPs also publishes a section in Computing Canada, an IT Business Group magazine, about professionalism and the I.S.P. certification).

CIPS professional standards director Roger Hart, who with former CIPS president George Boynton is attending the IFIP meeting this week, said professionalism is becoming a bigger issue as the IT industry matures. The day is coming when IT professionals need the same kind of credentials as engineers or those in other industries, he said. Besides the I.S.P. certification, CIPS has also established a code of ethics, which it updated last year.

“I’m also an engineer, and every month I get magazine with two pages in the back with information about very graphic disciplinary hearings of people who have failed to adhere (to engineering standards) and who have been disciplined,” he said. “CIPS has not had to do that yet but I’m sure the day will come when somebody will say to us, ‘I hired this I.S.P and he didn’t adhere to the code of ethics.’”

CIPS was involved with Canadian federal government in GATT negotiations intended to give international mobility to IT professionals who met a certain level of certification, Hart said. The idea was to address the skills shortage some countries have said they will face in the near future around IT, and to provide better job prospects of skilled immigrants.

“Those negotiations collapsed,” Hart said. “It wasn’t due to anything that CIPS was involved with – it was just getting too big and too unwieldy.”

Instead, CIPS hopes the IFIP meeting will lead to memorandums of understanding between the other participants to get certifications mutually recognized among several countries. Hart said he did not know why the United States was not involved in the meeting. IFIP was unable to reached for comment at press time.

CIPS has also been opening up the I.S.P. certification. Last year, for example, it allowed for the first time those who don’t have a traditional IT degree to become I.S.P.s, including foresters that use geographic information systems or accountants who may end up managing some aspects of enterprise IT.

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