As an active member of the Branch Executive Committee in Victoria, it has been my privilege to represent the ACS in a corporate liaison role, forging closer relationships with major IT employers and seeking their input in ways the ACS can assist them.
I've consistently been told that the biggest challenge facing these organisations is how to attract and retain quality staff.
In response to this issue, the ACS established its Professional Recognition Program, a national initiative which encourages employers to leverage the Society's stringent accreditation procedures and extensive professional development activities to enhance the value of IT employeesThe program offers employers a choice of two criteria to satisfy in order to qualify for membership:
1. They can state "ACS Membership Preferred" in their criteria for relevant IT positions and in related recruitment advertisements; and/or 2. Fund the cost of ACS Membership for eligible IT staff as a standard employment benefit.
In Victoria alone, around 20 organisations signed up to the Professional Recognition Program during 1999, contributing to a total of more than 80 companies and government departments around Australia.
Organisations like Australia Post, Ernst & Young, GIO Australia, Lion Nathan, Nestle Australia, QLD Treasury, SMS and Xerox are all reaping the benefits of this initiative.
Not only does the program help to streamline the hiring practices involved in attracting IT staff, but the stated preference for ACS Membership acts to attract a higher calibre of professional - someone who is committed to their profession, whose knowledge and experience has been measured and proven, and who subscribes to a Code of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct and Practice.
In addition, the practice of providing professional membership for existing IT staff who meet the Society's criteria directly benefits the business, since the individuals involved can use their membership to expand their networks and enhance their professional and technical knowledge.
In Victoria, this component of the program resulted in over 130 new members for the ACS whose employers paid the costs of theirprofessional membership as a new employee benefit.
The approach taken by the Professional Recognition Program actually works to raise the value of ACS membership, since it creates greater awareness among employers of the qualifications, skills and professionalism of ACS members.
This also serves to raise the status of ACS members within their organisations, further encouraging non-members to reconsider whether they too should seek to qualify for professional membership.
Of course, the introduction of closer communications between the ACS and major employers opens the door for valuable feedback about the challenges facing our members in their workplaces. Employers now have the opportunity to provide input into the types of professional development activities offered by the Society to its members, which in turn will assist them to operate more effectively.
I also believe the Society's recent entry to the Australian Council of Professions will further increase awareness of the value of professional membership for those working in IT, cementing the ACS' position within the industry and its enhancing ability to influence events and policies affecting its members.
As the IT industry continues to mature and develop, we can expect to see an increasing reliance on professional membership to indicate an individual's technical expertise and experience.
Adam Smith is Vice Chair of the ACS Victorian Branch and a senior manager in the Management Consulting division of Ernst & Young.