CIPS – Growing the Information Technology profession and community in Canada
By: Aileen Ormoc
In addition to hosting multiple networking events CIPS, Canada’s Association of Information Technology Professionals, is a Canadian association representing the Information Technology (IT) community that has prided itself in supporting IT workers and fostering the IT profession in Canada.
Founded in 1958 by Professor Calvin C. (Kelly) Gotlieb, the association has three main programs including the certification of IT professionals, and the accreditation of computer science, software engineering, and MIS programs offered in post-secondary institutions across Canada.
The association came to be through a computing conference organized by Kelly and the Computer Science department at The University of Toronto. The conference generated some revenue, and Kelly decided to use that money to form a professional association for IT workers to get together and share their experiences.
CIPS grew over the years with sections forming all over the country from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Today, CIPS is a federation of Provincial Societies.
Brenda Byers, I.S.P., ITCP, the national board chair of CIPS, says that developing one’s leadership skills are one of the many benefits to becoming a part of the association.
Having to keep up with the constant changes in the IT industry can often times be problematic for IT workers who have been in the industry for some time. CIPS, however, offers a solution to such changes.
Mary Jean Kucerak, the chief operating officer at CIPS says, “Our certified members are required to re-certify every three years indicating that they have maintained a certain level of educational credits, and that they are staying current.”
She adds, “CIPS looks at providing educational programs, bringing in speakers that can talk to our members about new trends in the industry. We recognize ongoing professional development as being fundamental for individuals to have a successful career in IT.”
CIPS prides itself in having Canada’s only legally recognized designation for IT professionals, the Information Systems Professional (I.S.P.) designation, which assesses the knowledge and technical background of IT professionals. I.S.P. standing has been granted in Canada since 1989, and is legislated as a self-regulating designation in six provinces, with other provinces working toward similar legislation.
The CIPS certification program also views globalization as crucial to the Information Technology sector, especially as the industry continues to expand.
Byers says, “Our ITCP designation is an internationally accredited certification meaning, it is recognized by a group of countries that have got together and developed a standard for that designation. This includes education, competency level and years of experience guidelines for this type of certification.”
Kucerak is a firm believer in the IT industry, and believes it is a driving force in our economy.
“There is a shortage of the right skills in the industry. CIPS’ role in that perspective is matching what the industry is looking for with our practitioners and ensuring that continuous improvement and training is offered to all our members,” says Byers.
Post-secondary education is also important in bridging the gap between the current lack of skills and the demand for IT workers.
“CIPS accredits college and university programs to ensure that the education system is delivering those skill sets that are required in the industry, and matching those two up,” says Byers. “If there is any issue with a placement it is generally a skills problem, not necessarily an industry where there isn’t jobs.”
CIPS offers its members a number of networking opportunities by planning events like the annual ICE Conference, hosted by CIPS Alberta, and the national IT Professionalism Week, both in November. Events like IT Professionalism Week are meant to try and promote professionalism in the IT industry.
Both Kucerak and Byers bring a wealth of experience to CIPS.
Kucerak has been with the association for the last thirty four years, and landed a job at CIPS immediately after her university graduation, and majoring in urban planning.
Byers joined CIPS nineteen years ago, with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, with a major in Computer Science. She has been working in the IT industry since 1986, and has taken on a slew of board positions from treasurer, secretary, president, vice president, and director with a portfolio.
Looking ahead, Byers can see the IT industry expanding further and also merging with the business industry.
“What we are seeing is professionals from an IT perspective that are crossing over to business strategy and leadership planning,” says Byers.