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An L&D Strategy to achieve 100% Certification clearance

An L&D Strategy to achieve 100% Certification clearance blog cover image
Amit ChoudharyCo-founder & CEO

Let’s assume you are a seasoned L&D professional, part of the L&D team of a modern, high growth Enterprise AI and Analytics company which boasts of having highly skilled data professionals in some of the most niche technologies like Databricks, Snowflake, Gen AI and more.

Upskilling people on commodity skills like Excel or Python is simple. Assign one of the popular courses through Udemy or Coursera followed up with an assessment to test their skills. This should mostly do the job.

However, when it comes to complex and high impact skills like Data Engineering, a “course” simply doesn’t cut it. Hottest data engineering skills of today like Snowflake, Databricks etc. require the candidate to learn a plethora of interdependent skills to be able to successfully deliver scalable, secure and resilient data engineering pipelines for their client projects.

Given that data engineering pipelines sit at the heart of all modern analytics solutions, clients demand the data professionals working on their projects to be duly certified. They act as a seal of trust which customers of Fortune 500 companies can put on the engineers who are going to work on their projects. Moreover, vendors receive a premium on the billing rates of certified professionals.

Ex. a typical entry level certification for Databricks is the Associate Data Engineer and for Snowflake, it is Snowpro Core.

So, why not go back to the popular platforms like Coursera, Udemy or Pluralsight, pick up a certification course and assign to learners?

Well, here’s the catch. All of the popular certification exams of Databricks and Snowflake, i.e Associate Data Engineer (Databricks) and Snowpro Core (Snowflake) demand a minimum work exposure of 6–8 months before the candidate is rightly eligible to appear for the certification.

Although, this eligibility is not physically validated at test centers, but the reason this condition is put because the exam questions are highly scenario driven which only somebody with an actual, on-ground experience can solve.

Secondly, the certifications have a cost associated. Ex. Snowpro core certification costs around $200 with taxes. But, the actual cost of a candidate failing to clear the certification is much more.

Let’s do a simple math. Assume a candidate is offered a popular course worth say $10 and spends 2 hours everyday for a month to prepare (assuming billing rate of $60 per hour which is the opportunity cost had the engineer been already certified and deployed on projects)

So, the total invested cost would be : $60 x 40 (2 hours x 5 days x 4 weeks) = $2400 + $200 = $2600

Assume an Enterprise analytics firm planning a minimum of 40 engineers to prepare and clear the certification, the total cost easily comes at around $100,000

With so much at stake, the L&D simply can’t take chances by floating some course and hoping the candidate would somehow be motivated enough to prepare and clear. Remember, the candidate is a busy employee already inundated with work.

So, what could the L&D do better? Is there a gap to be filled up? If yes, then how?

Let’s go back to one of the critical pre-requisites of any certification exam : Relevant work experience.

Why is this important? As mentioned before, only a small % of the exam questions are fact based or knowledge based which can be answered by simply “watching” through a course made on Power point slides. Majority of the questions are tricky scenario based problems (especially the ones with more the one correct answers) that can only be learnt by solving them on the actual portal like Databricks or Snowsight.

However, the catch is : None of the existing courses plug this last mile gap of certification prep i.e exposing learners to real world scenarios crafted to ensure practical experience. This results in the candidates committing a lot of mistakes in exam questions which are designed from real world experience. This puts them under risk of flunking the exam and hence causing the company monetary loss as well as an opportunity to start the next important project with the customer.

Now coming to the strategy which Enqurious follows to enable L&Ds maximize the outcome of their investment in certifying busy employees :

Step 1 : Conversational Masterclasses — When it comes to “Masterclasses” almost every other Edtech vendor on earth offers it. How are we different? Our Masterclasses aren’t boring slide based one-way monologue. That’s not how one learns at workplace. We prefer talking to a guide, a mentor to clarify doubts and seek help on stuck situations. We have followed the same philosophy and have designed Masterclasses which are more of conversations between a mentor and a mentee. The impact? More than 90% completion rates of our Masterclasses

Step 2 : A Core Project — We already discussed the lack of practical experience posing the biggest risk against clearing the certification exam. Projects and scenarios being our forte, we have designed end-to-end learning experiences aligned to :

  • An industry domain like ECommerce, Healthcare to ensure relevance of the problem statement

  • Set of skills — Aligned to the certification syllabus

Adding the project as an essential part of the learning experience has what helped us enable our clients achieve a cent percent certification clearance rate.

Step 3 : Traceability and Analysis : Even though we provide the best of the Masterclasses and project experience, it is a bitter truth that learners deviate from the planned track or delay due to many reasons like difficulty in grabbing concepts or getting stuck at error scenarios. For L&Ds it’s of utmost importance to be able to track and analyze each learner and identify red spots early and take proactive steps to assist learners to be able to get back on track asap. Enqurious provides an easy to interpret and analyze Skills Insights Dashboard that helps drill down to key problem areas for a given learner enabling fast remediation of issues.

Step 4 : Mentorship : At Enqurious, we strongly believe in the philosophy of Andragogy which entails techniques to ensure the most effective learning for “grownup” as against Pedagogy which focusses more on kids’ learning. Grownups require more space for independent thinking, experimentation and dialogue for them to do justice to their learning. As against kids, adults bring a lot of value from their past experience which enables them to pick and choose the areas where they need to invest more time and energy vs areas which they can simply skim through. Given a traditional learning program offers a one size fits all course, grownups don’t feel associated with a course and slowly drop off. With Mentorship along with scenario driven problems, we ensure the learners are participating in the conversation related to a given problem, a bug or an outcome of an experiment. This also helps the team at Enqurious to run highly lean learning sessions, cutting down the time of a given session from the traditional 8 hour a day sessions to 1–2 hours highly focused connects.

Learning as they say, is very personal to a learner (especially the adult ones). Everybody understands the importance of learning something new and earning a proof of the same via certifications. However, given the time and cost sensitivity of certification programs related to niche skills, it becomes utmost importance to design and execute the right strategy by the concerned L&D team.

The 4-point strategy mentioned above did work for our key enterprise clients helping them achieve a staggering RoI of 100% with all candidates clearing the certification exam and getting deployed to client projects within a month’s time.

Are you an L&D team at an Enterprise Analytics firm looking to maximize your RoI of investments in upskilling your employees on niche skills?

Look no further. We are a connect away from helping you design your next strategy and help execute the same.

Check some of our key projects across skills : https://www.enqurious.com/project