MCSEs overrated, Hong Kong employers say

The Microsoft Certified Software Engineer (MCSE) qualification, held by 8,000 of Hong Kong's local IT personnel, has fallen under criticism with doubts raised about its practical value in the workplace.

MCSE is a rolling certification that requires engineers to periodically sit exams on new Microsoft products. The software vendor claims MCSE-certified professionals can effectively manage information systems that use its products.

However, employers are being warned by some not to expect too much from candidates that carry this qualification.

Lachlan Sloan, an IT recruitment consultant at Connectedgroup Ltd. in Hong Kong, said a MCSE certification does not guarantee that the holder can effectively manage a system, despite Microsoft's claims.

"Many local companies have been burnt by employing staff based on the qualification, only to later find their systems skills lacking," he said.

These companies expect too much from the qualification, he said. As MCSE courses being offered by some local training centers can be passed in as little as 21 days, the amount of information that can be absorbed in that time is minimal, he added.

"It's just not possible to learn everything you need to know in that time. Experience is the only true measure of a candidate's worth," he said.

Jim Morgan, chief technology officer at local finance industry content provider NavGlobal, said a MCSE qualification should be considered only as a starting point for reviewing a potential employee's skills and not as an end in itself. He added that the format for passing MCSE exams was not as tight as it could be.

"The (MCSE) exams are largely multiple choice and can be re-sat as many times as you like, so eventually they can be passed with good memory rather than though actual problem solving," Morgan said.

Morgan added that the level of priority given to security training in the courses was basic at best.

"If I employ someone with an MCSE I know they will be able to set up a server but they don't necessarily know how to secure it," he said.

Micheal Leung, Microsoft Hong Kong's group marketing manager for .Net and development, is in charge of local MCSE training for Microsoft. He said an MCSE gives to a candidate a "high-level conceptual overview of network administration together with situational training."

However, Leung noted that only 10 training centers in Hong Kong are endorsed by Microsoft and that many others operate outside its Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC) channel. He said some centers train candidates how to pass exams rather than how to master the course's core concepts. Employers would do well to look at where candidates received their education, as centers varied in quality around Hong Kong, he added.

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