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HK IT career: From certification to registration

o Carol Ko
31.03.2014 kl 23:07 | Computerworld Hong Kong

On February 19, Facebook rocked the world with its US$19 billion acquisition of four-year-old mobile messaging platform WhatsApp. Earlier in March, two brothers in Hong Kong sold off 20% of the shares of their mobile gaming company to a Guangzhou-based online game operator, with each brother pocketing HK$270 million.


On February 19, Facebook rocked the world with its US$19 billion acquisition of four-year-old mobile messaging platform WhatsApp. Earlier in March, two brothers in Hong Kong sold off 20% of the shares of their mobile gaming company to a Guangzhou-based online game operator, with each brother pocketing HK$270 million.

This news is encouraging," said Sunny Lee, currently chairman of Hong Kong Computer Society's CIO Board, and vice-president (Administration) of City University of Hong Kong. "They vividly demonstrate that the IT field is very exciting and presents many opportunities--hopefully attracting more students to enter the IT field."

Hong Kong has no lack of IT jobs. On March 1, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation held an annual career fair. It brought together over 2,500 participants and 40 employers, with 370 IT jobs on offer--ranging from app developers, programming, engineering, biotechnology, chemistry to sales and marketing.

On the same day, the Hong Kong Computer Society held its second IT Career Expo 2014, attracted 1,500 participants and 30 exhibiting organizations offering about 200 IT positions, with starting salaries ranging between HK$10,000-20,000.

Perception and misconception

Remuneration for IT practitioners is not an apparent problem, but still the city faces an IT talent shortage. "In the past few years, the gross starting salary for most IT graduates in Hong Kong is slightly above market and is steadily growing," said Lee. "For example, most computer science graduates are paid HK$12,000-20,000."

Despite the monetary attraction, it turns out that IT isn't the first or even second choices for many students. "Many students would not choose IT as their first priority," said Lee, "largely because of the perceptions and misconceptions they have about the career prospects of IT."

"The problem we have today is that those who are interested in IT dare not study IT," he said. "Some may notice a few IT practitioners still carrying screwdrivers and doing low-end jobs after many years, which reflects poorly on the prospects of IT as a career."

"To improve the professional standing of IT workers', it is important that their know-how, experience and expertise are recognized through systematic and objective assessment," said Agnes Mak, executive director of the Hong Kong Productivity Council. Besides enhancing the competitiveness and sustainability of Hong Kong enterprises, the HKPC is also tasked with nurturing "a strong pool of IT talent for Hong Kong industries," she said.

"To this end, HKPC has been supporting related professional certification bodies, such as the Hong Kong Institute for IT Professional Certification (HKITPC), in offering related training programs to IT professionals who seek to acquire certification recognition in their respective areas of expertise," Mak added.

From certification to recognition

The HKITPC provides a CPIT (Certified Professionals in IT) scheme: "an independent and practical way to measure and qualify IT professionals at different levels of positions," said Lee. The CPIT scheme provides credentials for six CPIT titles. These include 'master titles'--Project Director, Systems Architect, Quality Assurance Manager; and 'practitioner titles'--Associate Project Manager, Information Security Officer and Business Analyst.

These CPIT titles are aligned with the Qualifications Framework (QF) of the Hong Kong Education Bureau, thus providing CPIT-certified professionals with a clear roadmap for professional development. "These titles are very important," said Lee. "Otherwise, IT would not be seen as a structured professional career like accountancy, medicine and law."

"The QF only provides certification, it does not provide recognition," said Daniel Lai, GCIO and former head of IT at MTRC. "I hope that one day, IT practitioners can call themselves professionals like lawyers, accountants or engineers."

In 2012, the OGCIO set up the "Task Force on ICT Professional Development and Recognition" to develop a unified ICT professional recognition framework--referencing the international practices and frameworks (such as SIFA: Skills Framework for the Information Age) of other economies. The task force is composed of professional bodies and industry players.

"The whole objective of the unified IT recognition framework is to help project a more positive professional image for IT professionals in Hong Kong," said Lai. The goal is to establish a governing body that can unify all existing professional IT recognition schemes, such as the CPIT and those of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers. "The governing body will be tasked to recognize these schemes, and certify those that have previously attained the accreditation in a unified approach," said the GCIO.

According to Lee, a member of the task force, the committee is conducting "an extensive consultation process within the industry, involving all stakeholders from users, service providers, contractors, to IT professionals and CIOs. The task force will then conduct a public consultation from April until June."

"If the feedback [from the public consultation exercise] is positive," said Lai, "I hope to launch the [IT recognition framework] by the end of this year."

Lee added that the unified IT recognition framework will aim to certify "generic professional capabilities and experience," instead of certifying proficiency in certain technologies or IT products.

"It is generic in the sense that the skills and experience to be certified are technology-independent," said Lee. "But it is also specific to the field of IT, as it will assess the professional competence and experience of an IT professional."

Central registration system

In the future, the governing body will be responsible for maintaining a central registration system of certified IT professionals. But it will not be a licensing board like the Law Society or the Board of Engineers.

"There's still a long way to go before we discuss licensing matters," said Lee. "After all, not all job categories in IT require a license, though it's desirable that certain job types like system architects designing mission-critical systems are license holders."

"At present, the task force is looking to produce a credible and objective yardstick to assess whether a certain IT professional has attained professionalism and experience," he said.

Keywords: IT Management  
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