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Google Cloud certifications fuel race for cloud talent

Google has expanded its cloud certification program to include tests for developers, security, networking and G Suite.

Google Cloud's latest plan to improve its enterprise IT bona fides and gain market share is to expand its professional certifications.

The Google Cloud Certified portfolio now has four new certifications: Professional Cloud Developer, Professional Cloud Network Engineer, Professional Cloud Security Engineer and a G Suite certification. The Google Cloud certification exams for developers and G Suite are generally available, while the ones for networking and security are in beta.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) will charge $200 for the developer exam, $120 for the networking and security exams, and $75 for the G Suite exam.

Google Cloud certifications already exist for Cloud Architect, Data Engineer and Associate Cloud Engineer, but the additional ones fill out the picture to support the core cloud job roles in every organization, according to a Google blog post. For example, many customers told GCP that G Suite has helped broaden their cloud transformation, so the G Suite certification provides a benchmark for their readiness to do so, the company added.

As with any certification program, the process benefits three distinct groups. GCP makes money off exam fees and expands the number of credentialed workers in its ecosystem, which can help win more enterprise deals. Customers potentially get a bigger pool of qualified job candidates and consultants. And IT professionals add more laurels to their resume, particularly for high-demand skills.

Google cited recent data from Indeed that showed demand for GCP skills grew nearly 70% last year, the fastest among its rivals -- but that's a two-sided coin.

"Google Cloud is probably the skill that is fastest-growing in demand," said Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics, an IT consulting firm in Irvine, Calif., which develops research and benchmarks for IT spending, staffing and best practices. "That's what happens when you start off in third place behind Amazon and Microsoft. It's like the kid that wins the 'most improved' award."

cloud computing certifications
Certifications improve IT teams.

Numerous studies and surveys -- many vendor-sponsored -- talk up the notion of a cloud skills shortage or even crisis. While there is certainly a need for cloud-related IT skills, IT shops should view the issue in a broader context, Scavo said.

Demand for server support administrators has declined steadily during the past decade, in part, because servers are easier to administer, and moving to the cloud pushes further in that direction.

"So, there should be a lot of skilled IT professionals looking to migrate their skills to the cloud. I don't think it will be a difficult transition," he said.

Companies that hire full-time or temporary staff to help with a cloud transition should use them to train existing staff, as well, Scavo added.

If you're equally qualified as another candidate, and you have a certification and they don't, that can push you to the top.
John Reedexecutive vice president, Robert Half

As for Google Cloud certifications, the old adage that they don't substitute for real-world experience still applies in the cloud era.

"They might help, and they probably don't hurt," Scavo said. "They do ensure that the candidate has some level of familiarity with the technology. But unless they include hands-on exercises that actually test skills, as opposed to multiple-choice questions that simply measure ability to memorize, I wouldn't put too much weight on them."

A candidate without certification who has six months' experience with cloud infrastructure is more attractive than one who is certified, but has no experience, Scavo said.

John Reed, executive vice president, Robert HalfJohn Reed

But even in a tight market for talent, there's usually competition for the most coveted jobs.

"If you're equally qualified as another candidate, and you have a certification and they don't, that can push you to the top," said John Reed, executive vice president at Robert Half, an IT staffing company based in Menlo Park, Calif.

Online training options, such as those offered by GCP, also give IT pros something they didn't have in the past.

"Twenty years ago, [certification] was a lot of classroom time and instructor-led," Reed said. "It wasn't conducive to the student so much as it was to the training company. Today, it's so much easier to work on those things on your schedule."

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