By Duane Rinehart, ICT-DM Regional Director, Employer Engagement, San Diego/Imperial Region
Industry-recognized certifications have been a valuable tool to objectively measure specific technical skills since at least the 1980s. Combined with university degrees and experience, individuals may demonstrate competence in a discipline by taking a test based on key metrics that correspond to the needs of a sector.
Over the years the importance of certifications has increased as the industry has grown and matured. In academia (trade schools, colleges, learning academies, etc.) a number of highly specialized degrees and programs have attempted to prepare for increased tech worker demand, but efforts are highly fragmented, not standardized and only a snapshot of a moment in time.
Recently, certification bodies have attempted to fill these deficiencies by implementing 3-year expirations on certifications, to maintain relevancy as trends shift toward newer technologies. While certifications have never been cheap, involving preparation materials and exam fees sometimes topping $1,000, this accelerated “shelf life” creates an additional burden on individuals wishing to enter the sector. Incumbent workers may receive reimbursement from employers, but new and transitional students must pay out of pocket.
In California, the community college system (specifically the statewide ICT-DM sector representatives) established an agreement with the Xvoucher company to facilitate the purchase of discounted testing vouchers for students. This website, available at https://www.xvoucher.com/buy/ccc/, lists a subset of industry certifications for which vouchers may be purchased.
Xvoucher was structured to exist in perpetuity as no grant funds are required for maintenance or subsidies. Each college listed has an established agreement with the testing provider (e.g., CompTIA, AWS, etc.) for “academic” pricing (typically 40-50% off retail price). This is usually included if the college has applied to become an affiliated academy or testing center.
The discounted price is available to students who attend these institutions, serving as a marketing tool in addition to an equity mechanism. In addition, the scheme does not risk running afoul of the state constitutional prohibition that no public benefit be awarded to private individuals.
The current site is being updated to reflect new branding from the state Chancellor’s Office and additional certifications may added upon an institution’s request. The hope is to include relevant certifications for all CA Community Colleges, lowering the bar for entry for underserved populations and even incumbent workers as they can enroll through adult education/CTE programs to update skill sets and receive discounted vouchers.
Faculty and deans in the CCC system, can link to the Xvoucher site from department pages to promote this resource to students. Promotion to employers as a channel for cost-effective incumbent worker training is also a possibility. An entire team is dedicated to supporting this effort; regional and state director contacts may be found at https://ictdmsector.org/about-us/.