I joined the IT industry in late 90s in Chicago when A+ was a must have for every technician. This is just when the infamous dot com bubble had begun to take shape. It’s been over 16 years now; I have worked on hundreds of projects, watched the Internet & the IT industry grow and have been a witness to numerous trends that came and changed the world we know or left in no time, never to return again.
It has almost been an era but the IT industry is still changing & growing, so much that it leaves even the smartest of techies surprised. Here in this post, I will try and draw upon my experience in the Chicago market to shed some light on the idea of career change in 60 hours with A+ Training course at an IT school.
How it All Started – A+ Certification the Perfect Solution
It all started during the .com bubble in the late 1990s. Stock markets in the US and several other western economies were soaring high due to the speculative bubble. Venture capitalists poured in funds and premature IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) followed.
Information Technology and Internet companies were rich. Well, at least for some time.
Suddenly, every other company we had heard of was hiring.
There was a huge shortage of IT professionals to meet the hiring demand of all these companies during the dot com bubble.
To bridge this gap, a multitude of IT training schools came up everywhere to train students to start a career in IT.
Hiring managers had a problem. IT training institutions marketed certifications as a solution. They were to provide seasoned IT professionals with A+ certification & MCSE Certification to meet the growing demand. That’s how it looked on the surface.
Back then, IT certification was a buzzword. A+ was on every IT student’s to-do list. A typical path to employment was A+ Certification training within 40-60 hours, then the Network+ Certification and MCSE certification.
The norm became to pass a multiple choice certification exam(s) and get a job within a week or two. So, vocational training schools started offering 40-60 hour A+ certification training programs.
More enrollments imply more profits, right?
For hundreds and thousands of college students, fresh grads and others, it was one of the sweetest career deals during this time. The sole aim of the IT school was to help students hop on a new career wagon by passing a multiple choice test such as the A+ exams and get employed as IT support specialist.
All worked well while the dot com bubble lasted.
You could get A+, Network+ or MCSE certified easily. Starting a new career couldn’t be easier than that. After all, you could call yourself an IT professional in just 2-3 months. All you needed was to get “certified.” Many schools even provided their students with braindumps. So what are braindumps? Let me put it this way, braindumps were actual questions and answers from your certification exam!
It didn’t take employers a very long time to realize that majority of merely “certified” IT professionals weren’t actually qualified for the jobs they were to be hired for.
That’s when the term “Paper Certified” came around and became popular as the realization got deeper.
The term “Paper Certified” defined someone who had all the certifications on resume but had never really worked on a live computer network or lacked practical, real world experience.
There were thousands of such Paper A+ Certified technicians in the market.
The .Com Bubble Bust – The Worst Came True for Paper A+ Certified
Hiring spree continued for many years during the lifespan of speculative bubble in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Strange as it may sound, I remember cases in Chicago where people quit their IT jobs just so they could go on 2-4 weeks’ vacation during this time. They would come back, post their resumes on job sites such as Monster.com or ComputerJobs.com and have over a dozen interview calls lined up in no time. The Chicago job market was hot!
Magical as it may sound now, the joy was transient and in fact, was followed by a dark phase.
When the .com bubble finally blew off in late 2001 and 2002, the IT industry saw record layoffs. By the end of 2001, nearly 100,000 layoffs had been announced. A year before that, twice as many people had lost their jobs in the industry.
This was a horrible time to be in IT for “Paper Certified” techs.
Many of my experienced friends were out of a job and had no employer to work for.
It was about time the market corrected itself and that’s exactly what happened. Employers now had the opportunity to hire the best talent to fill vacant positions.
This time, they demanded more from job seekers. A+ Certification and other Certifications weren’t enough.
Apparently, they had learned from their past mistakes. After all, the bubble bust had sent shockwaves throughout.
Hiring managers could now easily pick out the candidates who were “paper certified” from a stack of resumes 2 feet high. They were in no mood to waste any time evaluating or ‘trying out’ such candidates.
The IT industry players had learned their lessons the hard way. Besides false market evaluations of course, it was the incorrect human capital investment they wanted to stay clear of in years to come.
After All This, How Did the A+ Training Schools in Chicago Respond?
As the IT industry took a nosedive, hordes of for-profit vocational schools and IT training institutions in Chicago also experienced sharp decline in revenues.
Many of these schools just switched to other emerging sectors like Healthcare and milked yet another bubble.
The IT support training industry in Chicago area didn’t really change its course.
Many institutions and big companies continued offering those 40 – 60 hour A+ certification Training courses, meant to help students start a new career and quickly find a job.
Even today, if you want to make a career change, most schools around Chicago will still recommend and place students in a 40 – 60 hour A+ certification training program.
The IT industry job market since the dot com bubble has changed a great deal BUT such schools continue to sell the old recipe – “Get Certified and Get a Job.”
It’s stale, irrelevant and in fact, signals a dodgy road ahead.
Information Technology is here to stay and is one of the best fields for growth according to the Department of Labor.
But, the head start you’re planning, will it actually put your career on the right track?
No, it won’t. Theory and practical application of knowledge – these are two completely different ballgames.
What Is The Problem With a 40 – 60 Hour A+ Program?
CompTIA, the certifying authority for A+ certification recommends six to twelve months of hands-on experience in the lab or on-field before you attempt the A+ exam.
This recommendation has been made for a reason.
CompTIA wants you to have enough experience “actually working” on various technologies before you prepare for the certification.
Most candidates, bombarded by unrealistic vision of the rosy future, carefully painted by training schools, are hardly aware of this recommendation or worse, ignore it in hopes of taking a shortcut (which isn’t there, by the way).
The logic of learning everything in 40 – 60 hours’ timeframe doesn’t make any sense at all.
A typical A+ certification book, for example, has well over 400+ pages of information you need to know really well.
How can you possibly learn 500 hours of hands-on knowledge in a condensed 40 – 60 hour A+ training program?
Do you think potential employers don’t know this simple truth? They do.
The A+ exam is primarily a multiple choice test. Interestingly, most IT schools providing the A+ training also offer a test pass guarantee.
Read their fine print and you will know that the so called guarantee requires you to take hundreds of practice questions and pass with a minimum of 85-90% in each practice exam. Logically, that’s when you are ready to appear for the real A+ exam.
Few Words of Advice – From a Training School Owner and an IT Instructor
As a training school owner, I would love to take your money but I am being upfront and honest. If you have the relevant experience and your goal is to pass the certification, you don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to have an IT training school help you pass the A+ certification exam.
It’s relevant experience that matters more than a certification and if you’ve the first, you can have both.
Fact of the matter is that it ultimately comes down to self study and preparing by taking multiple practice exams. An expensive IT training school will also have you do exactly that after the completion of their program.
Instead, you can just buy a good A+ Certification book and practice exams on your own. That should cost you less than $400.
If you are a chef, mechanic, retail clerk or from any other profession and are looking to make a career change, be informed. Experience is King. The biggest challenge for you is going to be gaining hands-on experience to qualify for a job. In this case you can really benefit from experience based training. You need hundreds of hours of it to make a successful career change.
A career change does not happen in 40 – 60 hours.
Anyone telling you otherwise has either no knowledge of the IT industry or is someone who benefits from the ongoing facade.
Take the recommendations of the certifying authority. Avoid shortcuts.
A career change is a major decision in anyone’s life. Make it wisely. Find a school that provides a solid foundation for a career change.
Final Words – Experience is Everything
In the IT support field, Experience is Everything.
For a successful career change, you must have the experience part of the puzzle figured out. Find a school or an organization that is willing to provide you with real world, hands-on experience as part of your training program.
Remember the formula, a relevant certification + experience = employment.
CCTC is an IT training School based out of Chicago and is operated by an IT consulting firm with over 10 years of experience in the IT field. CCTC provides A+ Certification training in a live computer service center. If you are looking to start a new career in the IT support field and want to do it the right way, contact CCTC. We train you until you find employment.