Certification: Why it's hip to be square

Security education looks to IP courses, goes global
SSN Staff  - 
Sunday, April 1, 2007

Certification is not the sexiest subject in security, but as the industry drives toward creating standards that will guide its future growth, certifications and tech training will no doubt play a major role. As an integrator, which certifications can you not afford to pass up? The emergence of IP training is driving some new course offerings in the industry while other courses are being exported around the world. In interviews with Security Systems News, leaders of industry training programs mentioned the importance of following standards in the industry and establishing core competencies among its technicians.
Paul Baran, Chairman of the NBFAA's National Training School education Committee (www.alarm.org) and a corporate security consultant for Bosch, said advancements in technology have led the NBFAA to emphasize more training: "Intrusion, access control, CCTV and fire--the integration world is starting to bring all these technologies under one platform. We could see that we needed to expand our current offering with more training. Once we [have our CCTV certification] we'll be able to bring all the technologies together under one umbrella."
Dale Eller has been the director of education of the NBFAA's NTS for about three years and holds the distinction of being one of its first certified technicians in 1985. Because of the way integration has exploded, "namely in access control and CCTV," NTS is becoming more tech-savvy this year with the addition of a Video Systems Technology course (to follow their NTS Level 1, ABAT and FAIM courses) that "deals on a more in-depth level with converged security solutions," said Eller. Their first Video Systems Technology course will launch in April.
According to Eller, the demand for NTS IP courses "is amazing--the demand is almost beyond the capability of handling it. I don't ever recall being in a situation where you've had to turn people away."
Tom Scalley, installation manager at Electronix Systems, in Huntington Station, Long Island, took the NTS course: "I am in no way an expert, I still bang on my computer keys with dried bones and rocks." However, "It was worthwhile because I got a lot of confusion cleared up. Now I have enough savvy to talk to customers about firewalls and know what I'm talking about."
ISC West's Cynthia Holloway, director of industry development for ISC education (www.iscwest.com) said, "there's been a gap in training integrators on the IT side. So ISC moved forward to provide training under the auspices of the IP Institute."
At the 2006 ISC West, the institute launched its Level I training course, which had input from several industry leaders including Microsoft and Cisco, as well as on the physical side from Jim Gompers, ISC's curriculum development consultant. Plans for 2007 include developing Level II training in network, surveillance and access control, the first class of which had already sold out by press time. So far, the classes have proven to be hugely popular, Holloway said, with 450-500 completing certification.
Over at CSAA (www.csaal.org), Steve Doyle, executive vice president, said his organization's 5 Diamond Certification Courses, offered for nearly two years, have "more and more of a focus on IP, there are some new modules to discuss, and a lot more courses."
In order to achieve 5 Diamond status, besides putting every operator through CSAA's courses, a central needs to be UL- or FM-listed, and a CSAA member company. CSAA courses are online. "We found it's much easier for people taking online courses--they can take it over a period of time," Doyle said.
Doyle said that part of the reasoning behind implementing the courses in the first place was a drive toward creating standards for central stations. "Now that we've put close to 3,000 people through these courses, this has become the certification standard," he said.
Since it was started, it's been picked up in Australia, Puerto Rico, and South America and into Canada, said Doyle, and Spanish and French versions of the tests will be available in several months.
Meghan Adams, vice president of Washington Alarm, a central that recently achieved 5 Diamond status, said "We decided to pursue the 5 Diamond Certification for several reasons: To verify that our standard operating procedures and training programs met the industry benchmarks, to provide additional training opportunities for our employees, and to support the industry in establishing standards for central stations across the country. Hopefully, it will result in a more informed customer and lower false alarm dispatch rates."
SIA (www.siaonline.org), based in Alexandria, Va., has a partnership with CSAA.
Holly Wells, manager of SIA's educational programs and services, said a student who's taken CSAA's online course can submit their certificate of completion, and SIA will reciprocate, "as long as they have a SIA certified instructor at their central to verify their work."
SIA has two certifications. The first is a central station training program that includes "a train the trainer program." Central stations send a senior operator to a five-day 40-hour week training, to become a certified instructor.
The second is the Certified Security Project Manager course, "The only certification program in the industry for security project managers specifically," said Wells. SIA is now entering its third year with that program; more than 50 have completed the entire process. Recertification is part of the process as well, "After 24 months, there is a portfolio and performance assessment, and then recertification every five years."
Ed McDonough, director of global security for Tyco Fire & Security and chair of the Professional Certification Board for ASIS (www.asisonline.org), believes recertification is one of the most important aspects of his institution's offerings.
Like CSAA, McDonough also mentioned that international growth has taken off in the last couple years within ASIS and "we're trying very diligently to serve our international members." To this end, ASIS has begun offering some of its exams in Spanish, and, "We will be looking at other languages" as well.
The most valuable aspect of certifications may in fact be their rule-making qualities. "We think these types of certifications are valuable, they make people pay attention to a higher standard. In Latin America they have no certifications or standards, and it's chaos. The more standardized we become as an industry, we think it's going to work out that much better," said Doyle.