The Value of IT Certifications


As IT leaders scramble to close the skills gaps within their organizations, hiring candidates with the right IT certifications is becoming increasingly advantageous. Hiring managers are under tremendous pressure to find new hires who can quickly become productive team members, who can troubleshoot problems and complete projects on time, with minimal handholding. Candidates who hold high-value IT certifications are considered more job-ready than those who do not.

In fact, an overwhelming percentage of IT decision-makers agree that the value of certification is undeniable. The Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report states, “Ninety-three percent of decision-makers around the world agree that IT-certified employees provide added value above and beyond the cost of certification. When asked to estimate the economic benefit of certified employees versus their non-certified peers, 63% said it exceeds $10,000 a year. Twenty-two percent placed the number above $30,000.”

According to Burning Glass Technologies’ 2017 report The Value of Industry Certifications in the Job Market, IT certifications provide employers with additional assurances of candidates’ skills and capabilities by “reducing the need to rely on imperfect proxies, like college degrees.” For employees, IT certifications “outline career ladders that define industries … and give job seekers guidance about what skills are necessary to advance.”

A comprehensive strategy to narrowing the ever-widening IT skills gap must also include upskilling current employees. According to the same 2019 Global Knowledge IT Skills Report, IT decision-makers “are struggling to ensure their teams have the skills needed to meet organizational goals. Unfortunately, that struggle is only getting worse.” While not a panacea for solving the persistent skills gap problem, providing employees with training and educational opportunities that result in certification is a cost-effective and expedient option.

Tombolo Institute’s In-Demand IT Certification Programs

Tombolo Institute’s foundation rests on Bellevue College’s 50-year history of developing adult learning and workplace education programs that meet employers’ needs. This vital workforce development role is being advanced by the Institute’s commitment to expanding and bolstering its relationships with top tech employers in the Greater Seattle region. Because of this commitment, Tombolo Institute is at the forefront of delivering collaboratively designed tech programs that help create a pipeline of qualified job candidates and upskill working IT professionals. To learn more about the IT certificate programs offered by Tombolo Institute, we present the following Q&A with Ray Chew, technology education program director.

Q. What are some of the IT certificates someone can attain through Tombolo Institute?

A. We offer two types of certificate programs: The first type is conferred by Bellevue College and a second type that is conferred by either a trade industry organization such as CompTIA, or an industry vendor like Amazon or Microsoft. All the certificate programs that originate at Bellevue College are designed with input from regional industry professionals and meet the skills and competencies that employers value most. To meet the widest spectrum of tech industry needs, we offer certifications that are vendor-specific and vendor-agnostic. This is important because in fields such as cybersecurity, companies do not want to hire candidates who are certified only in a proprietary vendor technology; they want who have certificates from an industry consortium and can work across different point products or technologies. For that reason, we offer several CompTIA certificate programs and we will soon add the Linux Foundation ones as well. Both CompTIA and the Linux Foundation are nonprofit industry associations that provides vendor-agnostic, or open source, technology education, training and certifications. Our students can become certified in CompTIA Cloud+, CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst+, Linux Foundation Systems Administration, or Linux Foundation Systems Engineer.

On the other hand, many companies also need people who have vendor-specific certifications. Therefore, we offer programs such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Cloud Practitioner, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect, Microsoft Azure certifications, and Unity certifications.

We also offer certification programs designed and delivered by Tombolo Institute, which include database administration, database business intelligence developer, web design, UX design, graphic design, software testing engineer and technical writing.

Q. What differentiates the IT certificate programs offered by Tombolo Institute?

A. Our IT certificate programs, like all our professional development programs, are carefully and thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of learners and industry. When industry tells us that they see a lot of people graduating with degrees and certificates but no hands-on experience, we respond. Our IT certificate programs are taught by working industry professionals who have an immense amount of real-world experience to share. For example, during class an instructor may ask students to participate in a mock white-board session, which prepares them to be able to communicate and present their problem-solving ideas — something they might be asked to do in the workplace. We also incorporate a capstone project into the curriculum, which provides learners with an e-portfolio that they can take to an employer to demonstrate what they learned and how they applied that knowledge. The e-portfolio represents a real-world project our instructors have mentored students through. Once the project is completed, a student can upload it to GitHub, a code sharing and publishing service, as well as a social networking site for programmers. Upon completion of the certificate program, the student’s capstone project can be presented via GitHub to a hiring manager during an interview. This provides an employer with an extra level of confidence about the candidate’s capabilities that goes beyond the typical resume.

Perhaps as importantly, achieving the certificate carries an intangible benefit. It shows that the person is dedicated to improving their skills and is committed to their career growth. In the tech sector one of the most important personal characteristics hiring managers look for is someone who is dedicated to continuous learning. This is crucial because technology changes so quickly.

Q. Tombolo Institute is in the process of developing some IT apprenticeship programs. How do they relate to the certificate programs?

A. We are currently developing various apprenticeship programs: one with a major tech company and another with the state of Washington, which will be a cybersecurity apprenticeship. Both apprenticeship programs will act as an extension of our IT certifications. As you would expect, both programs will combine classroom studies with on-the-job training supervised by an IT professional. The state of Washington program will be a registered apprenticeship program; this means participants will be able to earn while they learn. We are planning to have the cybersecurity apprenticeship program ready soon, which will hopefully be followed by a customized program for the large tech company we’re partnering with.

Q. What is an example of a regional employer that sends its employees to Tombolo Institute to get certifications and upskilling?

A. Various large employers in Washington state such as Boeing, T-Mobile and Microsoft have been sending their employees to us for upskilling and IT certifications. Because we are agile and develop our training programs and classes in collaboration with business and industry, we can provide relevant learning experiences that keep their employees up to speed with the constant changes in technology. Our goal is to be an educational and training resource that people come back to over and over again as they contemplate their career progression. Some of our students come to Tombolo Institute to upskill for their current job, while others are looking to reskill for a career transition, which is timely considering our current economic environment. On our website you’ll find a testimonial from a student named Tod Hilton who worked for several years in software testing at Microsoft. Tod was looking for a change and realized that his skills and knowledge complemented technical writing. He graduated from the Technical Writing Certificate program and is now working for Google in Seattle. Tod was able to get his certificate by completing his learning online. Tombolo Institute has been able to offer both in-class and online, instructor-led courses to allow maximum flexibility and choice to students.

Call Out Quote

“An ideal program is a living collage of what’s needed for learners and industry. For example, someone comes a program to get a specific IT certificate, which helps them get a job. Because the institution’s intent was to provide more than a piece of paper, because its goal was to develop a relationship with that student, that person will come back for more training. And when they return, they bring feedback about what’s going on in the workplace and what they need to continue to advance in their career path. That student’s workplace feedback is used to enhance current programs and create new ones. The end result is that person will view the institution as an invaluable resource for continuous learning and career advancement. I believe that is what Tombolo Institute is providing to its students.”

—Brett Green, CEO, New Tech NW

We Help to Shape Careers Through Online Education

Tombolo Institute strives to provide access to quality education for individual who are looking to reskill and upskill. Our students want the flexibility to be able to work and pursue an education simultaneously. From Port Angeles to Pullman, our extensive online class offerings have been allowing students and working professionals to stay up to date on the latest technology and advance their careers by attaining high-value IT certifications. Since the COVID-19 crisis, we have expanded our offerings and added free online courses to make education and training opportunities available for those who may need to reskill for a new career. Whatever your situation, the Tombolo Institute is ready to help you advance along the career path that is right for you.