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Continuing Professional Education: The Worthwhile Investment

  • April 01 2004, 1:00am EST

A well-known adage suggests, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Knowledge is not static, it evolves; therefore, continuing professional education in any growing field -- including medicine, law, education and technology -- is critically important to the productivity and vitality of that field's workforce. Employers are discovering that money spent on employee education is more of a realistic investment than a costly decision.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush proposed an initiative to expand workforce training to ensure that employees will be prepared with the skills to adapt to changes in dynamic industries. It is an initiative that statistics support. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 1990s, increased worker skills accounted for an estimated 32 percent increase in workforce productivity, representing a dramatic increase from the preceding decades. Clearly, offering educational opportunities beyond the standard four-year degree to employees who work in technology-related fields can only improve productivity and employee value.

At AFCOM, the leading association for data center managers, providing vendor-neutral platforms for lifelong learning and networking opportunities is our mission, and it is the primary focus of AFCOM's "Data Center World: The Conference for Data Center Professionals" scheduled for April 5-8, 2004, in Las Vegas.

The conference, held twice each year, brings together IT experts and data center professionals from around the country together to share knowledge, experience and trends in a rapidly changing industry. Data Center World provides educational value that cannot be achieved anywhere else. Highlights of the conference will include keynote speeches on reducing costs and best practices; tutorials on disaster recovery and storage, project and equipment management, and industry trends and optimization; and instructive sessions covering all aspects of security, power, consolidation, storage, new technology, design, outsourcing and cabling infrastructure.

The chief benefit of any professional conference is cultivating working relationships with other knowledgeable people in the same industry. There is no substitute for peer-to-peer learning. A venue to discuss relevant topics of interest with those who are facing the same day-to-day challenges and responsibilities provides a wealth of solutions that individuals can take back to their data centers. It also provides the occasion to meet peers who can later be contacted for help in making a business successful.

Thwarting the enterprise data center skills shortage that looms in the industry drives both the AFCOM conference and a partnership AFCOM has fostered with Marist College in New York.

AFCOM and Marist College have partnered to offer a data center certification program through Marist's Institute for Data Center Professionals (IDCP), which -- along with membership benefits from the AFCOM association -- helps bring resolution to the critical skills issue in the data center arena. According to, this one-of-a-kind "Data Center Technology Certificate provides a fast-track certificate for those making inroads into the data center profession who need technical skills in systems and software, networking, facilities management, operations and process management, security and product development." This program is offered in a 12-week, accelerated online format for full-time workers in any location.

Employers, faced with the prospect of paying for employees to attend conferences and to continue education through online programs, should remember the irreplaceable benefit of new technological knowledge, which transforms daily. Isolated employees without access to outside resources will not be informed about the latest methods of data center management, and this will ultimately cost the company more money in business and equipment failures. By investing in training and certification for your IT staff, you will increase productivity, reduce employee turnover and meet and exceed company goals.

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