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I have written before in this column about how important I believe it is for independent computer solution providers to turn their ?on the job? knowledge into industry recognised certifications. This becomes particularly relevant when the potential customer is a local or national government department or other government funded organisation.

The way ahead for the indie channel

The recent experience of our members assisting their local care homes to obtain grant funding through the £12 million Get Connected scheme has shown that accreditation is important when applying for a listing on the national Suppliers Directory, which covers ICT suppliers providing goods and services to the voluntary, community sector and registered adult social care provider organisations in England.

In order to assist our members with the certification process, Brigantia has teamed up with the National Education Foundation (NEF) of the United States. NEF was recommended to us by our American affiliate ASCII Group, which has worked successfully with it for a number of years.

NEF is an American not-for-profit organisation with its headquarters in Washington, DC. Founded in 1989 after consultations with high-profile figures including President Bill Clinton and Intel co-founder Dr Gordon Moore, NEF bridges the employment, digital and academic divides by providing high quality affordable online education to millions of students in countries including the US, India, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritius and now the UK.

NEF offers web-based training courses that can be undertaken 24/7 over 12 months. There are 40 IT Certifications available, with the most popular being Cisco CCNA, Microsoft MCSE, CompTIA A+, Net+, Security+, IT Security (CISSP), Web Master and Project Management Professional (PMP). There are also 500 business, management and small business skills courses available.

Brigantia has negotiated substantial ‘scholarships’ for members wanting to use NEF’s e-learning courses for their business owners, employees or apprentices. The scholarships bring the cost of the courses down to $60 (about £40), which represents a huge saving. The schemes can be accessed quickly and easily through the members’ portal.

As the UK channel embraces NEF it is our intention to ask Cisco, Microsoft and CompTIA to support the work we are doing with the Brigantia Computer Experts Accreditation Scheme, which by its nature is an umbrella standard that we will develop over the coming years. We will be asking them for assistance in raising awareness of the work we are doing at a national level while we concentrate on making sure Brigantia members fully embrace the scheme at a local level by placing our logo on their shop fronts and throughout their marketing materials and advertisements. Rather than talking about this as other bodies have been doing, we have been quietly getting on with it.

The future of the channel is service and to be able to go after the better contracts, certification in various fields will be increasingly required. We are promoting this new scheme to our members in the hope that its use will give them more of a competitive edge.

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