The Saskatchewan government’s recent passing of the first legislated designation for practicing information technology professionals in the province will help create awareness and promote ethical behaviour in the ICT sector, according
to industry experts.
The Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) of Saskatchewan Act ensures that IT professionals who hold the Information Systems Professional (I.S.P.) designation have the required education and experience to practice in the IT field. The act mirrors similar pieces of legislation passed in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario.
“The legislation does two things for the profession,” said CIPS Saskatchewan president Grant Kerr. “It provides title protection for the I.S.P. designation. It provides self-regulation for the IT profession.
“For the public it gives them a visible indicator of somebody who meets the qualifications to hold that designation.”
I.S.P. holders, for example, are required to re-certify each year, submit proof of ongoing skills development, show that they work at least 60 per cent of their time at a professional level in IT and abide by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct. Holders who fail to meet these requirements may be fined, suspended or expelled from CIPS or prevented from using the I.S.P. designation.
The act helps meet today’s requirements for corporate transparency, said Richard Murray, executive director of policy and planning at Saskatchewan’s Information Technology office.
“IT professionals aren’t geeks in the backroom with screwdrivers tweaking servers anymore,” said Murray. “They’re dealing with larger financial transactions and facing larger ethical issues than they once did.
“Certification and title protection and educational and ethical requirements are just so important in today’s world we felt strongly the bill should proceed.”
While CIPS had the full support of the government, getting there took a little longer than initially anticipated, as Kerr and other CIPS members were unfamiliar with the legislative process. Unlike some other provinces, including Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, professional legislation in Saskatchewan has to be sponsored by a minister (in this case Information Technology Minister Andrew Thomson) as opposed to brought forth as a private members’ bill.
Similar to other professional designations such as P.Eng., CIPS member and I.S.P. holder Dorothy Josephson, underwriting and services manager at SGI Canada in Regina, said the act gives merit to the IT industry as a whole.
“The legislation is one step forward to the overall professionalism of IT,” said Josephson. SGI Canada, a Saskatchewan-based insurance company, doesn’t currently require its employees to get the designation or hire on that basis. SGI Canada’s collective bargaining agreement, however, has educational requirements for specific positions. A business analyst, for example, is required to possess a two-year IT diploma from an accredited post-secondary institution.
Although the designation has been around since 1989 and is recognized internationally by organizations like the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP), Kerr admits CIPS has had trouble raising awareness of it in the past. With the passing of this legislation last month, Kerr hopes to capture the new-found momentum surrounding the I.S.P. designation.
“We have a great opportunity here that we don’t want to pass up,” said Kerr. “We want to go out and talk to CIOs of organizations and share with them the value of the I.S.P. designation and encourage them to ask for it when hiring.”
Likewise, Josephson said the legislation gives the IT industry a reason to promote the designation.
“It has created a little bit of buzz,” said Josephson, referring to the recent CIPS national conference held in Regina as part of the province’s centennial celebration. “Part of the reason it hasn’t taken off is there’s just not a lot of awareness. Now with the reason to promote it and it’s in legislation, it gives it more credibility.”
The Saskatchewan government has also encouraged CIPS to raise the designation’s profile, said Murray, adding the organization has already started that.