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Q&A with a Mom Balancing Her Career and Home Life

Q&A with a Mom Balancing Her Career and Home Life

What do you do when you want to retool for a new career?  As an adult, you have more responsibilities and time pressures. Add to that the chance that at any moment you can get a call from school saying that your kids will be learning from home for the week or month or more, and it can be difficult to manage being a working professional.

Today we are highlighting one of our success stories here at the Web Professionals Organization. Eliza H. is a mother of school-age children who had to transition to working remotely because her children were home more due to frequent COVID-19 school closings. Over the years she has taken courses at her local community college to keep her skills sharp and continue to develop her career, and she is working with the Web Professionals Organization to continue that development and maintain flexibility to balance her personal life and professional life.

Eliza earned her Web Design certification and Remote Working Professional certification all from the comfort of her own home by taking the courses from the curriculum partner of the Web Professionals Organization, CTeLearning. She recently used those credentials to land a remote job as a web community developer and is now working on meaningful projects in the job of her dreams. In her interviews for the job, she was able to talk about the industry certifications she earned. She started on a Monday, knocked out four separate interviews all within a week and she was offered the job that Friday.

As a mom with two young children, these courses and certifications gave her the skills and knowledge to enter the tech field while maintaining her status as an involved mother. She still picks her children up from school, helps them with homework, and stays with them when they are home sick.

Eliza is very thankful to her local community college that set her up with this opportunity and gave her the chance to become certified web designer through the web design curriculum. With all the chatter today about the high cost of college, she shows how quickly you can upskill. No high-dollar boot camp. No expensive four-year school with big loans. And these certifications are built and backed by industry, not professional testing companies. Instead of having to take a high-stakes exam at the end of the courses, she completed project work through the courses to build her career-ready portfolio. Her training paid off when she realized on day one of the job that she already had the skills to succeed.

Right before she landed her job, we caught up with Eliza to learn more about her journey and dedication to professional development in the age of remote work.

What attracted you to web design and development?

Web design and development allow me to combine my passions—being creative and helping people. I love being creative and bringing ideas to light while helping people expand their businesses to reach other places and countries. I am currently focusing on the coding or backend side of websites so I will be able to provide customized website designs to each client.

What did you enjoy about your experience at the community college?

Community colleges offer fantastic value. It was an easy choice for me to first look at Washtenaw Community College to retool and get ready for the new reality of work. It wasn’t just the convenience—Washtenaw is part of our local economy, understands our community, has great teachers and is affordable. I really do love Washtenaw. I started taking classes back in 2006 when I was transitioning from one college to another. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I took some general education classes that would transfer. I love the small class sizes, and the teachers are excellent. I have gone back several times to take classes and have never had a bad experience. 

How has your experience at the community college shown you how important it is to continue to develop your skills as a professional?

I previously worked in an office and took classes at my local community college that taught me the skills I needed to be good at my job. Now that I have my Web Design certification, I am taking even more courses. The information that I am learning is up-to-date and valuable in the job market.

How has taking the Remote Working Professional course and earning the certification empowered you as a working professional?

The Remote Working Professional course provided guidance on how to set up my day-to-day operations while working from home. Now that many jobs have moved to being remote, we need to learn how to make home the new workplace and also be able to separate work life from home life. I have worked from home in the past doing tech support, and this course has provided me with further knowledge and an industry-recognized certification on how to work remotely and be successful. I like that this was something I could do during the kids’ nap time or when they were at school. The information was easy to digest and I could easily pick up where I left off. 

How has the course and certification changed your view of global connectivity and people being able to learn and work remotely from anywhere?

I think we are digitally connected more than ever. The Remote Working Professional course shows others that I have the skills to work from my home office and excel in a variety of roles. 

What skills did you learn in the course about working remotely that you would share with a hiring manager in a job interview?

I would tell them about my home office that is secluded from the rest of the house, which ensures I have limited distractions during the day. I would also tell them about how I am more productive working at home since I don’t have a commute.

What does the term future-proof mean to you now? 

Future-proof means being able to have an in-demand flexible career and business that I can work on when I want to. 

What have you learned about how to balance being a mom with school-aged kids with being a working professional in the remote economy?

I love working remotely because I have time to get tasks for work and home done. I can take a quick break and go change laundry loads or take the dogs out for a walk. I can pick up my kids from school if I need to. Being able to get home tasks completed allows me to focus more on work. I end up getting more done than if I had to commute. 

What have you learned that you would pass onto your kids to help them excel in the classroom as well as in their future professional lives?

It is important to make a schedule and follow it. Set times to focus on work and times to take breaks. Great time management can make you stand out and be more productive. With the pandemic, it is more important than ever to be able to learn and work productively from home.

What would you tell other parents who are considering career changes?

Don’t be afraid! You have to come up with a plan of attack to get where you want to go and then follow it. Don’t let doubt get to you. Find something that you are passionate about so that work becomes more like play. Get paid to do what you love. 

Reach Out To Us Today

We are proud of Eliza and all of our students who strive to further their professional development, no matter what stage of life they are in. Contact us today to find out more about us and how we can work with you to help you achieve your goals.

Discussing Certifications with a New Web Professionals Organization Member

Discussing Certifications with a New Web Professionals Organization Member

Today we are highlighting Amy F., one of our most recent Web Professionals Organization certification recipients. She earned her Certified Web Designer (CWD) and Certified Remote Working Professional (CRWP) certifications as well as an Ethics in the Workplace microcredential, all from the comfort of her own home. She can use these credentials and her robust portfolio of web design projects in future interviews with potential employers or as a base to launch her own business as a freelancer.

MyCAA—also referred to as the My Career Advancement Account— is a program that provides tuition assistance for courses and certifications to military spouses. Amy was able to utilize the MyCAA program, and we are proud to be associated with this program that helps military spouses succeed. We have worked with countless military members and spouses over the years to help them earn certifications, and they are always among our most driven and hard-working students. As a military spouse, Amy is a great example of why we offer online certification programs.

We caught up with Amy to ask about her experience taking courses and earning certifications as a working professional.

What initially attracted you to web design and development?
Coding reminds me of math in a way! The beauty of math is that it’s either right or wrong. I love that! As I learned about coding, I realized it has operations of its own, a set of rules that need to be followed. I find that relaxing.

web design certifications

As a military spouse, what did you enjoy about being able to complete the courses and certifications fully online?
I really appreciate that this class was fully online! I also liked the schedule flexibility as well as the ability to work on the certifications at my own pace and from wherever my husband and I were stationed at the time. We underwent a permanent change of station (PCS) move while I was in the middle of the courses, and I was able to continue working seamlessly.

How has taking the Remote Working Professional course and earning the certification empowered you as a working professional?
I’m fortunate that this course also offered a Remote Working Professional (RWP) Certificate. I’m excited about the future and the jobs I will be able to get now that I have a RWP certificate. I plan on working remotely so that I don’t have to look for work each time my husband and I change locations.

How has the Remote Working Professional course and certification changed your view of global connectivity and people being able to learn and work remotely from anywhere?
I love the fact that I can work for a company based anywhere in the world.

What skills did you learn in the Remote Working Professional course that you would share with a hiring manager in a job interview?
I learned a number of skills. To name just a few:

  • Communication: well-mannered verbal and non-verbal communication as well as sending post-meeting recaps to avoid miscommunication are important.
  • Organization: using a planner and setting a timeline.
  • Ethics: adhering to commitments, showing empathy, and being respectful, honest, transparent, and accountable.
  • Initiative: doing the job right and on time.
  • Preparation: being ready for technology failures.
  • Cultural sensitivity: understanding different cultural norms by researching before engaging.
  • Cybersecurity: how to maintain safety and privacy.

How has your experience earning these certifications improved your confidence in being able to work from anywhere as a military spouse?
My mom and dad always tell me they’re proud of me…but that’s their job. I took the course so I could be proud of myself.

What advice would you give to others who are considering earning certifications to future-proof their careers?
The same advice my mom gave me: “The time is going to go by anyway!”

The internet, business, and marketing are all closely intertwined together—how do you think the courses and your new certifications will fit into your future plans as you go on to finish your business degree?
I will be graduating with my BBA this summer (woo-hoo)! Through my education I have earned experience, skills and qualifications that show I am capable of learning. After this summer, I plan to use my degree and certifications to land a nice job!

You have taken a number of courses online—what stands out about these courses?
I really enjoyed both courses! I like how well CTeLearning organized the courses, as each lesson helped and prepared me for the next lesson. I also liked how during each lesson I was able to apply the information I learned. In the Web Design course I was first shown how to write the code, then I did it myself. Thank you for teaching in a way that I can have ownership of my knowledge! And thanks to the Web Professionals Organization for the integrated certifications I now have!

Mark DuBois, Executive Director of the Web Professionals Organization, said, “Amy is another great example of a MyCAA success story. I am proud of our military leadership for thinking about the whole military experience—not just for the service person, but for their spouses and families as well. I think it is a brilliant idea that we, as a country, invest in educational opportunities for military spouses. Our servicemen and servicewomen and their families sacrifice to maintain the security of our nation. Helping spouses gain marketable web technology skills so that they can move as duty requires helps make the family unit stronger and more resilient. MyCAA is money well spent. Everyone who has been a part of this program who has gone through the education and received certifications from us has been exactly the type of person employers want to hire. Congratulations again to Amy. We thank Amy and her husband for all they are doing to contribute to the safety and security of our country.”

If you would like to earn certifications and learn skills that can make you a more marketable professional, check out our certifications list and contact us today. We would love to chat with you.

Celebrating 25 Years of the Web Professionals Organization

Celebrating 25 Years of the Web Professionals Organization

Mark DuBois, Executive Director of the Web Professionals Organization, shares his reflections on the 25th anniversary of the organization. Mark was asked to take over the organization in April 2016 and has been running it ever since as Executive Director.

I

The Web Professionals Organization was originally founded as the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW), which was established in April of 1997. The founding Executive Director, Bill Cullifer, was a webmaster who was early to the scene of web design. Bill saw a need for the burgeoning wave of webmasters, content creators, and new internet businesses to come together in a community to share, collaborate and propel the web profession forward. Bill pitched his idea to many companies, and three of the largest gave WOW their start-up grants. We are still thankful to Adobe, Microsoft and Macromedia for our initial funding. The organization was registered as a 501(c)(6) organization, and the early years were full of growth. Bill Cullifer was deeply involved in growing the organization as Executive Director until 2015. He bowed out due to illness, but his legacy lives on. 

The mid-1990s was kind of the wild wild west of the web, if you will. In 1992 I built my first web page, which no longer exists. I first came across the World Organization of Webmasters in 2001 in Chicago. I had been working in web technologies for a while at that point and created many websites including one for a multibillion-dollar utility company in 1995. Four years later, I felt a need to do more. It was then that I decided to give something back to the community. Like so many others who feel the call, I decided to teach the next generation. So in 1999 I started teaching at the local community college, and met some folks from the World Organization of Webmasters at a conference a few years later. 

Coming from industry, I liked what the organization was doing. I began to seek ways to get more involved, so I took some certification exams and established a local chapter at the community college I taught at. I guess I made a name for myself and my program because a  few years later, in 2006, I was offered and accepted the role of Director of Education for the organization. Remember that this was still early in the industry—I became an officer of the association the same year Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. 

Under Bill’s leadership in the early years, we participated in many meetings of the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) at various venues around the world from Edinburgh through Beijing. It was at these meetings that we gave presentations and had the opportunity to meet with a number of luminaries such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the world wide web. These events were key in expanding the reach and influence of the organization—especially internationally.

Around 2006, I took my students to a web design competition in Springfield, Illinois that was held under the auspices of SkillsUSA. That was a state competition, as there was no national web design competition. I felt that the competition was not run as well as it could have been, opened my mouth, and the conference organizers invited our organization to run it ourselves. So that’s what we did. In 2002, we had a much-improved web design and development competition, where students actually had to compete at the state level. The Illinois SkillsUSA chapter loved what we had done, which got the National SkillsUSA executive team to take notice of our organization. 

In 2004, the organization collaborated on our first national demonstration competition for web design and development. And we had a number of teams that competed in that initial competition— it was something like 12 or 15 teams of secondary schools that competed. At this point it was no longer a demonstration contest—it was official. And we’ve been doing the national web competitions for SkillsUSA ever since. I was responsible for competitions through 2008, when I passed it to a former student of mine named Jonathan. He has been doing it ever since for the state of Illinois. We have never missed a year and even continued to run the competitions, albeit virtually, through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to giving students access to competitions run by industry professionals. 

As an organization, we decided early on to get involved in web competitions to highlight industry best practices. Our experience with all the workshops, teacher training, and seeing what student competitors produced showed us that many schools don’t teach the business fundamentals that are so important in addition to technical skills. Because of this, we decided that the best way to drive professional standards is to have students compete at both the state and national levels. In our competitions, the students’ code has to adhere to international web development standards for them to have a chance to win. 

Prior to the national competitions, all competitors participate in mandatory training so they are exposed to new concepts. We enjoy seeing the competitors discover that they don’t know as much as they think.  This has helped us drive our message of professionalism and expand our influence as the competitor-students go back to their schools and encourage their teachers to teach industry best practices. We know this works as more teachers ask us about industry standards every year. Little by little we are helping secondary schools prepare future professionals, which is a big part of our mission. 

II

In 2009, we were invited to be a part of the Web Standards Project, which unfortunately has been archived and is no longer active. We were thrilled to participate, as web accessibility and security has always been a focus of the organization. That year the meeting was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee with a number of people who were responsible for web standards. As you may remember, back then there were a number of different browsers emerging like Internet Explorer and Netscape. In the early 2000s, each browser came up with their own browser codes— there was the blink tag from Netscape, the marquee tag from Internet Explorer, and so forth. And the Web Standards Project was created to establish that all browsers implement similar code so that web designers could create websites that would work on any browser. This was something I felt strongly about, and I was delighted when I was chosen to be co-chair of the Education Task Force for the Web Standards Project. 

Working with Adobe and a number of other companies, we established the criteria for what curriculum should contain. And this became the career cluster for things like digital media that are out there today. If you look it up, you’ll find there’s a digital media career cluster. This provided the impetus for us to work with the Department of Labor around 2011. We also worked with professors and universities around the U.S., including John Gunderson of the University of Illinois, to do seminars and events about web accessibility. We also worked with the WordPress team on their accessibility task force. 

One of the biggest pushes for the Web Professionals Organization has been certifications. As we are made up of industry professionals, we had plenty of contacts to help us develop what would become our international industry-recognized certifications. With the blessing of our whole certification team we started to issue industry credentials in 2001. Back then, everything was paper-based. When I later became Director of Education, one of the first things I did was eliminate paper and make it all online. We thought this was a big step forward to modernize the organization and make it easier for more people to earn certifications. From 2006-2008, we had meetings in Las Vegas, with people representing businesses, workforce, secondary and post-secondary schools to define what should be taught in the way of curriculum as a general outline, and what should be covered in terms of certifications, technical skills, soft skills, and more. 

As a professional organization, we take credentialing seriously. The first certifications we offered were designer, developer, and webmaster. Today, we are proud to offer far more. What constitutes a web professional is far more diverse and demanding than back then. We do not teach to the test—you cannot find a sample test out there that you can practice with. For our professional levels, we ask to see examples of his or her work. For secondary and post-secondary students, we asked the teacher to assemble a portfolio of their work. To us, certifications signal that someone has the ability to produce and pull their weight in the industry—it does not mean that they are capable of cramming for an exam.  

As an aside, I have been in the industry and education for decades. I have seen it all and understand what does and does not help the web profession. Testing companies will give you samples of their exam, and often will sell you a book to use to prepare for the exam. These exams usually have little to no basis in industry standards. We are proud to have higher standards than just scoring well on an exam that you can study for from a book. We are not so much about the number of professionals we welcome into our organization, but the quality of those professionals. 

We have continued to make our certifications good for two years. Some have asked why they are not good for longer. It is for the simple reason that the world of the web changes so often that we must always be learning new skills. We are always focusing on the fundamentals. Frameworks come and go—we could make a list of those that have come and gone in just the last couple years. All that said, we focus on giving people a professional foundation that allows them to continue growing and adapting. We are about building true professionals. 

A quick story: there was a high school that had a number of students earn apprentice-level certifications, and they did well. That teacher retired and they were replaced by somebody from a different department. The following year, 100% of their students took the exam. All 30 students failed miserably. The teacher called me and was apologetic. And we discovered in a very short order that the teacher was not teaching what the students needed to know. The teacher had just grabbed a book and focused on just coding and nothing else. However, the next year they turned it around by focusing on the appropriate things in the following year, and the majority of students passed the certification exam. Educators seek to develop whole learners, and we want to grow whole professionals. Our expectation is that the certification represents the fact that students have the knowledge and portfolio to demonstrate proficiency. 

III

In-person meetings have also been important for us. We haven’t been doing as many in recent years because of COVID-19, but fortunately we understand how to use the internet to stay connected. Our members are webmasters, developers, and technologists from schools and companies of all sizes all over the world. Just as the internet is international, so is our organization. We work with schools and professionals in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South America, and Asia. In addition to helping schools, we also help workforce partners train and re-engage adults in high-demand web careers. We are constantly working with industry and education partners to understand how we can better serve the web professional community, and it’s why we are industry-driven and industry-recognized. 

Around 2010, we started the School of Web. We included a lot of the course materials that I had put together at the community college level, as well as courses from professors at other schools. We started the School of Web because in conversations with industry people we realized there was a hunger to develop their skills and knowledge. This started our efforts to offer micro-credentials. 

One of the main drivers behind all of this, which is still somewhat true today, is that the term “web developer” can have different meanings. If you look at two job listings for a web developer, one may be looking for someone with HTML and CSS while the other may be looking for someone with a solid knowledge of a number of JavaScript frameworks. So our certifications and micro-credentials establish a baseline that any web designer or developer should have in their skillset. A big part of why the web technologies industry evolves so much is that there isn’t a set of standards for credentialing like different states have for medicine or law. And we’re seeing some improvements on that. Today, we are proud to have certification recipients and members not only all over the U.S. but also around the world in countries like Albania, Germany, Nigeria and Lithuania.

This year, we have begun to expand to doing more state competitions within SkillsUSA. We have seen early success so far. We’re trying to bring the state competitions to a new level of excellence, so that those who participate are better prepared before arriving at the national competition. For the national competition, each state can enter just one team at the secondary level and one team at the post-secondary level. By getting involved with these state competitions, we are now impacting many schools around the country.

We continue to go out of our way to build community and get people involved—everything from Slack channels to local chapters that meet. We strive to make sure our members have a solid understanding not only of web technologies but also best business best practices. We also have expanded our international presence— we have participated in the international WorldSkills competition, starting in 2013 in Leipzig, and we have had international members on our advisory board. Our mantra continues to be “Community, Education, Certification.”

It has been a wonderful 25 years for the Web Professionals Organization. When we started out, the web was in its infant stages. Today, the internet is more integral than ever to people around the globe in industries ranging from manufacturing to education and healthcare to energy. People work, learn, and play on the internet every day, making our mission more relevant and important than ever. 

Stay tuned for a future article on where the Web Professionals Organization would like to go in the next 25 years. And if you would like to get connected, please contact us today. We are always seeking to expand our ranks both nationwide and worldwide and look forward to connecting with you. 

 

A Note on Ukraine

A Note on Ukraine

 

We know it is early to think about rebuilding. However, our hearts are with all Ukrainians. We know they will be triumphant in defending their country, and we call on all freedom-loving people to support them to this end. We are not trying to be political—we believe the internet is a place of free speech and freedom. We believe that wherever people live should be a place of free speech and freedom.

We are a professional association with international members who are also speaking out in their communities against the aggression and devastation of this war.

We have personally made financial donations to support Ukraine. Many of us fly Ukrainian flags on our homes.  Now, as an organization, we want to help in other ways. When the time is right, we want to help schools rebuild and prepare their students for careers. We want to give schools the ability to use our training, educator support, and provide our international industry-recognized certifications for free. It is our way to share our talents when our talents will matter. We are skilled in helping people move into and maintain their professional status in career pathways all things web.

We know this is early. We will continue to give to support the needs of the Ukrainians and continue to pressure our country’s leadership to do more to support President Zelensky and all the courageous people who are fighting to protect Ukraine.

We know Ukraine, with the continued support of the free world, will win its fight. Ukraine is fighting for all of Europe. Our words of support and our gift to help rebuild may feel hollow right now, but when the time is right we hope to be able to help Ukraine in a way that will be meaningful for them and cast a bright light on their future.

We appreciate one of our corporate members loaning us one of their Ukrainian team members to help us create this video. She is still in Ukraine, and we hope for her and her family’s continued safety.

Glory to Ukraine.

Ukrainian version

 

 

 

The Web Professionals Organization Announces New Competitions

The Web Professionals Organization Announces New Competitions

Over the past 25 years, we have been working hand in hand with education as we push forward our mission to support web professionals with education, community, and certification.  Over the years, funding requirements for career and technical education have shifted. We know that we need to do what we can to help administrators meet the funding requirements so they can continue to provide the tools teachers need to upskill students, open up career pathways, and ensure students’ career readiness for high-skill, high-wage, in-demand occupations.

As part of our mission to engage the next generation of professionals, we partnered with SkillsUSA in 2004 and started the National Web Design and Development Competitive Event. Our event team has run this competition ever since, and did not even skip a beat during COVID-19. We have learned so much over these years about how to blend industry expectations with secondary and post-secondary learners. 

Our industry team that runs the SkillsUSA event also has experience developing and running international competitions in artificial intelligence, robotics and game development. It is this wealth of experience that brings us to where we are today and our announcement for a new competition.

In this article we will discuss:

  • Our history of successfully running web competitions
  • The creation of a new competition model
  • The three competition variations
  • The career pathway trinity of curriculum, certification, and competition
  • How the competitions will develop the next generation of students/future web professionals

Background

We have had teachers asking us to run more competitions for years.  While we have always been willing, we knew we had to do it in a way that could scale easily and enable students anywhere in the world to not only compete but also to learn. Otherwise, we would not be meeting our core mission. 

Behind the scenes, we have been testing a new virtual competition model. This model will allow us to provide an international industry competition for secondary education students. All our testing has shown us that we have a viable competition system ready to go. Creating this virtual competition also allows us to push forward the message of how people with disabilities or specific conditions that might make other careers difficult are not a limitation in the broad and welcoming world of web professional careers. 

During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were one of only two competitive teams who ran their SkillsUSA National Competition. We were not going to let COVID break our perfect record of running our part of the SkillsUSA competitive events.  Admittedly, we were not allowed to run the event as an official SkillsUSA competition. We had already taken steps to simulate a web environment at Skills, so we simply took some of that experience and ran our web design competition virtually in 2020 for SkillsUSA programs who wanted to take part in the web design event in an unofficial capacity. 

One teacher who recently ran a competition had this to say about the experience: “If they want a great experience, they should use this program for running the competition. Anyone who is even remotely knowledgeable in using a computer can get the students on and running in the event. Most of it is hands-off for the advisor and the students do the bulk of the work. The user experience was great from a student’s perspective. I was very happy to find out that we were getting to have a professional experience in the web design category that was going to challenge my students and provide all of the necessary online materials for the competition. Thank you for making this event possible first and foremost. Without Web Professionals Org and their team, we wouldn’t have had a web design event in Mississippi.”

It is through this experience we realized that many schools have situations where it is not feasible to compete in a standard career and technical student organization (CTSO) event, yet they need to compete in a national event to meet some of their funding requirements. As the international professional industry organization we have the real-world experience and technical expertise to deliver competitions that are equitable, accessible and simple for educators to implement.  We see the need and we can fill the need. 

Overview of the New Competition 

We are proud to announce that the Web Professionals Organization will be running the following Future Web Professionals competitions virtually beginning in the 22/23 school year for the benefit of US-based and international career and technical education partner programs.

The motto of the Future Web Professionals competition is “Success Favors the Prepared.” We feel this fits with what we want our educators as well as future and current professional members to always remember. Lifelong learners are always striving to be prepared. Let’s face it—industry leaders are always better prepared. We see this as the next stage in supporting creating the next generation of industry professionals. 

In talking to our secondary educators, we found that many of them see a group of three areas that their learners are most attracted to.

  • Web design is a first obvious pick as it is the in-demand and high-paying career most people think of when they hear the words “web professional.” And they are right—as the U.S. Department of Labor cites the profession as one of the most high-demand, high-skill and high-paying.
  • Web animation is a bit more subtle of a choice and may not be as obvious. As companies look to market and brand themselves, they are always seeking to visually engage their target audiences with new innovative messaging on websites and social media. Web animation is one of the most important tools web professionals can use to help their clients propel their stories with or without dialogue. This career path has a ton of opportunities in web marketing, media and entertainment industries. 
  • Web game design is another pathway that attracts audiences and enables them to experience a company’s brand and story. Web games can attract new audiences to a website and allow new markets to discover brands organically through social media platforms. The game design pathway also teaches the value of interactivity in engagement. Today, 50% of all video gaming revenue comes from games played on mobile devices and 30% of mobile gamers are over 45 years old. Web game development is all about combining story, graphics, and choice into playable experiences. We also find that experience in developing web-based games helps strengthen a designer’s overall skill set. 

We will issue awards to top-performing future designers as well as acknowledge schools nationally for their work in preparing future professionals. The competitions will run so that both fall and spring semester learners can participate. 

Preparation—Curriculum, Certification, and Competition

We are a non-profit industry organization with a 25-year history of working not only with industry, but also with education and workforce. We have seen what it takes to prepare individuals for high-skill, high-wage, in-demand occupations.  A competition alone is not the way. We know it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a similar approach to raise a professional. 

Each of these competitions is part of what we see as the career pathway trinity or what we refer to internally as the 3Cs: Curriculum, Certification, and Competition.  

  • Curriculum: We create the foundation for your students to learn through a media-rich, real-world and project-based approach. This is not about simply learning coding skills, but engaging in the concepts, hard and soft skills that we know are important as professionals. This creates the whole learner who becomes a whole professional. 
  • Certification: The curriculum prepares the students to earn international industry-recognized certifications. However, our model of certification represents far more than passing an exam—our certification represents the whole learner. The whole future professional. Students are acknowledged for completing a career readiness body of work. They express their development through their college and career-ready portfolios with real-world examples of their creativity, problem-solving, and soft and technical skills. The capstone in each learner’s portfolio is the student’s ethics in the workplace micro-credential and their international industry-recognized certification. Their portfolio is portable and becomes a testament to career preparation success and a confidence-boosting career-affirming expression of each future professional. 
  • Competition: Finally, we offer the learners the opportunity to compete and test their skills on an international stage. As a professional organization, we are naturally global in scope. We are US-based, and we work to support professionals domestic and international. The international context of the competition reminds learners that they are part of a global community. In the future, they may work for international companies or have international team members—and they are always in competition on a global scale. Regardless of how well students do in the competition, they learn valuable skills in meeting project expectations and having their work stand with the work of those around the U.S. and the rest of the globe.

Helping you meet Carl Perkins funding requirements

For years we have heard from administrators, department chairs, and countless educators about the struggles they have trying to balance the needs of their learners and the demands of Carl Perkins funding.  For larger districts with more administrative support this may not be a pressing issue—however, this can be a daunting task for rural, urban and small districts.  We believe we are making it easier for all educators to get their funding by taking advantage of our curriculum, certification, and competition approach. If you want to talk with us, reach out to us at Steve@4WebPro.org

We are excited to offer this opportunity to CTE educators. We know that by adding this component to a CTE program we can help schools fulfill their Carl Perkins funding requirements more easily. We understand the frustration administrators feel and are doing what we can to make it a bit easier. We also see this as an opportunity for us to meet our mission and help welcome the future generation of web professionals, some of whom will eventually take our places here at their Web Professionals Organization and do their part for the future.  

One more note

As of the 22/23 school year, we will only offer this competition for our secondary partners.  However, our post-secondary partners are already asking when it will be available to them.  We promise that we are serious about bringing the competition to post-secondary and our workforce partners, but for now we ask them to remain patient. Please reach out to us today with any questions about this exciting new model. 

 

Taking a Look at Cybersecurity

Taking a Look at Cybersecurity

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there has been a renewed focus on one of the most important web topics: cybersecurity.

Cyberwarfare has been a major focus of Russia’s efforts to disrupt daily life in Ukraine. While there have not been large-scale attacks yet, there have been reports of smaller attacks. Last week, Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) said that it has discovered phishing attacks from Russia aimed at Ukrainian and Polish officials. In fact, hundreds of threats emanating from Russia over the past twelve months resulted in warnings being issued to Ukrainian users. One of these threats is WhisperGate, a malware that displays a fake ransomware note to users, encrypts files and can destroy data and disable devices.

U.S. Army Cyber Command has been aiding Ukraine in improving its cyber defenses since the 2015 Russia-led attack on the Ukraine power grid that temporarily shut down Kyiv. The U.S. has continued to work with Ukraine in recent months to prepare for the types of cyber attacks occurring now as well as potential large-scale events like infrastructure attacks that would make it much more difficult for Ukraine to defend itself. 

There have also been reports of coordinated Russian campaigns aimed at disrupting U.S. firms that supply natural gas, as natural gas has become increasingly valuable in recent weeks following sanctions against Russia that affect exports.

Additionally, there have been reports of the hacking collective called Anonymous hacking Russian targets in retaliation, as well as Chinese hackers using the Ukraine crisis to target European officials for a variety of purposes. It’s clear that cybersecurity continues to be one of the most important web issues. 

One of the biggest cyber attacks in the U.S. took place in May of 2021, when the Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware attack carried out by the Eastern European hacking group DarkSide. The Colonial Pipeline supplies half of the East Coast’s gasoline, making it a high-value target for hackers. The pipeline was down for several days, which caused gasoline price spikes, shortages and panic buying. It was reported by Bloomberg that the hackers launched the attack after gaining access to a leaked password for an old account that had access to the virtual private network (VPN) used to remotely access company servers. 

The company eventually paid the $4.4 million ransom in bitcoin, and the U.S. Department of Justice has since tracked down and recovered roughly half of it by successfully tracing the bitcoins. However, the CEO of Colonial Pipeline Company admitted that the hack ended up costing the company tens of millions of dollars to restore systems.

Taking Action 

With cyber attacks on the rise, now is a good time to do a security check-up to make sure you and your organization aren’t susceptible to hackers. Many believe that these Russian-led cyber attacks will soon spread to businesses and individuals in other countries. Make sure that your organization has budget resources dedicated to ensuring your cybersecurity strategy is robust.  

Make sure you use private connections, inspect your code regularly, be cautious of suspicious-looking emails, employ a strong password strategy and have multiple backups of your information. Make sure that all employees, including new ones, understand the organizational strategy and policy for protecting against cyber attacks. Remember that hackers don’t always need to exploit multiple vulnerabilities—sometimes they only need one to do serious damage. 

Although the crisis in Ukraine has brought awareness of cybersecurity to the forefront, having a cybersecurity plan and committing to executing it year-round will help to ensure you and your organization stay protected from hackers and avoid costly disruptions.  

Read More: The Importance of Web Accessibility

 

The Importance of Web Accessibility

The Importance of Web Accessibility

Web accessibility is the practice of making websites and web tools accessible to as many people as possible, and it is rapidly growing in importance in the world of web design and development. The web levels the playing field for people from all different walks of life and removes barriers for people who may have disabilities and struggle in one way or another in the physical world. 

With more people than ever working and learning from home, it is important to make sure websites and web tools are properly designed so that no user is left out. Poor website and web tool design can limit accessibility, often unintentionally. It is up to web designers and developers to ensure the products and services they offer can be easily utilized by everyone.

In addition to supporting people with disabilities, accessibility can include other groups that are often marginalized such as populations in rural areas, populations in developing countries, and older populations. Additionally, improving accessibility is a good business decision as it improves the overall user experience for all users. An increased focus on accessibility can spearhead new product and service offerings as well as expand market share. Once accessibility becomes a priority for you and your organization, it will become an integral part of the design process.

web accessibility

Let’s take a look at some of the most common disabilities, and how smart design can make the web accessible for all.

Cognitive impairments

This group includes people with a wide range of disabilities including learning disabilities and mental illness. The most common issues this group has when using the web are difficulties understanding content on websites and how to navigate complex web page layouts. To help this group, designers can focus on making easily understood content by delivering the content in more than one way, such as text, video, and text-to-speech. Maintaining a consistent web page layout and making forms easy to understand and submit are other ways to ensure accessibility for this group.

Mobility impairments

This group includes people with different disabilities ranging from physical impairments to neurological conditions. Disabilities include difficulties moving a mouse around on the computer screen and conditions that require assistive technologies such as speech recognition. Designing a website that can be fully navigated with just a keyboard can go a long way toward meeting the needs of this group.

Visual impairments

This group includes people with blindness, limited vision and color blindness. To help this group, it is important to include tools with zoom capabilities for websites and web tools. It is also helpful to include screen readers so that users can opt to have the text on the site read aloud to them. 

Hearing impairments

This group includes people who are completely deaf or partially hard of hearing. To keep websites accessible for people in this group, make sure all audio content is transcribed and all video content has closed captioning easily available. 

Designers and organizations often publish accessibility statements on their websites to provide an overview of accessibility policies and what steps have been taken to improve in this area. This can be a good way to be transparent, and it is also an opportunity to solicit feedback from users about areas for improvement.

The World Health Organization states that over 1 billion people—15% of the global population—have a disability. By not incorporating accessibility into websites and web tools, designers and organizations miss out on a massive number of people who might otherwise be potential users. Accessibility in web design is the right thing to do, makes the experience better for all users, and can help businesses grow worldwide. For more information on web accessibility, contact us today.

Read More: Taking a Look at Cybersecurity

 

Web Professionals Organization Announces Improved Model for 2022 SkillsUSA Web Design Competition

Web Professionals Organization Announces Improved Model for 2022 SkillsUSA Web Design Competition

The Web Professionals Organization is proud to announce a new and streamlined model for states to deploy SkillsUSA Web Design and Development competitions in 2022.

Building on over 20 years of experience running competitions, including the last two years of competitions run 100% virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Web Professionals
Organization has improved the process for administering competitions at the state level. This refreshed competition model is the most accessible it has ever been, enabling students to focus on creating innovative projects and equipping facilitators to run the competition seamlessly. Students only need a PC, Mac or Chromebook and an internet connection to participate in the competitions—giving those in rural, urban and suburban areas equal access.

Competitions can be run entirely online, which levels the playing field for students across the country in the age of COVID-19. This new competition model is future-proof and will be able to be implemented for years to come, no matter what the pandemic looks like in coming years. Competitions are run for free, and the model makes the judging process more standardized and easier than ever before. States can run competitions whenever they want throughout 2022.

Not only does our new approach make it easier for any state to run their own web design and development competition, but it also ensures that every state is conducting their own competition that models the expectations the competitors will need to meet at the national competition. This gives every state—from small to large—the same turnkey resources to ensure a successful competition. This model is intended to only be used for the current cycle of SkillsUSA competitions.

Highlights of this new model include:

  • Competition project with all graphic and textual assets that are similar in scope and style to what the competitors will experience at the national competition.
  • Competitor coding validator (a simple app) that will automatically check a team’s project and give your judging team a report outlining the quality of coding. This tool does in just minutes what would take a person one hour, dramatically cutting down on judging time.
  • Easy-to-apply rubrics help both new and veteran judges quickly evaluate team projects for creativity, design and best practices.
  • Web-based coding editor and folder system allows judges to easily review any state competitor submissions. Judges can review work with just an internet connection, allowing states to have judges join virtually from anywhere.
  • Web-based editor and site storage means your events committee does not have to worry that any competitor’s work can be lost or misplaced—all of it remains safe on the web.
  • Judging preparation materials and training videos are included to make it easy for new judges to quickly get up to speed and be able to deliver consistent judging.
  • Optional competition kickoff and welcome video delivers a consistent message to all competitors as well as some helpful hints about the competition project.
  • Technical back up and support provided by the Web Professionals Organization.
  • Fast and easy sign-up for state SkillsUSA leadership teams to reserve their free competition kit and web-based tools suite.

Because of these new systems the Web Professionals Organization is implementing for this year, any state can run a turnkey competition and give students an opportunity to build
meaningful projects in an engaging online environment. All of this is provided free of charge to any state wishing to have an organized and impactful state-level web design and development competition to prepare their students well for the national competition.

The Re-emergence of Webmasters

The Re-emergence of Webmasters

Anyone who has been around websites for some time will remember that “webmasters” once did it all. Webmasters were the ones who created, managed and hosted websites, acting as a one-stop shop for all things related to the internet.  It is why our organization was created as the World Organization of Webmasters, and retains that formal business name to this day. 

Over the years, as people moved away from the term webmaster to more specific job roles such as web designers and web developers, we adopted the Web Professionals Organization name. However, we have never forgotten our roots and have always maintained a webmaster certification pathway. 

Today we have certifications including web design, web animation, e-commerce, WordPress, web and mobile apps, web technologies, web game design, remote working and many more. While these certifications grew rapidly and still remain popular, we are now seeing a resurgence in people interested in becoming certified webmasters. In fact, recent recipients of the Web Professionals Organization Webmaster certification include a student in Brazil.

Why become a webmaster?

Admittedly, most websites today are more of a team event than websites in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the growth in the interest in webmastering is due to the fact that websites are so much more complex than back then. It’s important that someone understand how all aspects of a website fit together to keep it optimized. The webmaster is like the captain of a ship, understanding the interconnectedness of all the crew and their responsibilities. Because of this, the role has been growing again in recent years.

The role of a webmaster

Webmasters have a broad understanding of all the technologies that come together to make a website work. They also understand how to identify where improvements can be made and how to take advantage of new web trends to improve the effectiveness of websites.  They are concerned with all aspects of the company’s web presence. Like a great captain, they watch everything and are constantly looking for ways to improve. Webmasters cannot tell their boss, “That isn’t my department,” because pretty much everything is their department. 

They monitor website performance for design, speed, accuracy, and functionality. They oversee marketing efforts, outreach campaigns, and content creation, and even handle information technology work including server administration. And they constantly maintain, update and improve their websites. 

Webmasters have a wide range of skills including graphic design, SEO, HTML, WordPress, content writing, marketing and much more. Some webmasters have multiple clients and manage multiple websites at once, while others work for a single company or organization. Having both left-brain (technical) and right-brain (artistic) strengths is extremely beneficial for webmasters to execute their jobs well.

Interested in pursuing a career as a webmaster?

This career pathway demands professionals who are technically savvy yet can think on their feet about adapting to and meeting customer and client needs. They are essentially a blend of a tech nerd and a skilled marketer. If you like the idea of knowing that your choices have a real everyday impact on a company’s future, you might want to explore becoming a webmaster. Reach out to us today to learn more about the certifications the Web Professionals Organization offers and how we can help you achieve your professional goals. It’s never too late to continue to develop your skills or even make a career change into one of the many exciting and growing web careers.

Q&A with Web Professionals Organization Certification Recipient and SkillsUSA Award Winner

Q&A with Web Professionals Organization Certification Recipient and SkillsUSA Award Winner

This past summer, the Web Professionals Organization helped run the SkillsUSA web design and development competition. Open to contestants nationwide, 2021 marked the first year that the full competition was run entirely online. The competition’s goal was to “evaluate each contestant’s preparation for employment and to recognize outstanding students for excellence and professionalism in the field of web design and development.” The competition was open to teams of two who were interested in pursuing web design and development as a potential career.

Megan B., along with her teammate Ariana M., won the silver medal in the competition. Upon being awarded their medals, the two were offered internship opportunities with CTeLearning, a STEM curriculum development company in Kansas that serves secondary, post-secondary and adult learners. Other event medalists landed internships with industry members on the SkillsUSA events committee. Megan began her internship in July and worked on various projects to support CTeLearning courses involving animation, web games, web design and development and more.

Megan worked fully remotely as an intern, collaborating with team members in the midwest and northeast US as well as in the United Kingdom. The internship helped Megan understand how powerful the idea of “living locally, working globally” truly is in the new remote economy.

Megan also earned certifications through the Web Professionals Organization to develop her skills and bolster her resume.

We caught up with Megan to hear more about her experience participating in the competition and her internship.

What did you learn from your experience competing and earning an award at the SkillsUSA web design competition? 

I learned how to minimize work to make it sleek and effective in a crunched time frame. I also learned I was capable of making a great website in a small amount of time.

What was the experience like doing the entire competition online?

It was fun as I enjoyed having my partner and I in a room by ourselves, even though there were eyes watching. Honestly, I think ours was the easiest to do online, because that is where we work anyway.

What attracted you to web design?

I have always wanted to figure out how websites and games were built on the computer. Ever since I was little, playing on a Windows 98, showing my grandma how to play solitaire on it. Then, watching shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds, I was always drawn to the ‘computer geek’ character. When I heard I didn’t need to move to somewhere like California to become a coder, I jumped on the chance to learn. I also believe being a woman in this field helps show girls and other women they can do this too.

What has your experience been like working remotely with team members in other states and countries?

I was at first concerned about communication being hard remotely, but my experience with CTeLearning has been amazing. Communication issues are rare, and I enjoy being able to make my own schedule. It really is a great way of working.

How has earning certifications changed your view of global connectivity and people being able to learn and work remotely from anywhere?

Earning certifications in this field has shown me anyone at any age and with any knowledge of coding can learn it easily. I started learning code at the age of 24, after going back to college for the second time. If you have the willingness to learn, you can do anything with the right help.

How has earning certifications and the internship experience empowered you as a web design professional?

This experience has helped me tremendously with my confidence in what I can achieve. I now know I am capable of being effective and efficient in the web design field. 

What would you tell a hiring manager in a job interview about your experience in the SkillsUSA competition? What transferable skills did you gain that make you a more desirable hire? 

I would give them a description of what I did and how the competition works and what we were scored on, making sure to let them know it is a national competition. SkillsUSA definitely helped me learn how to work in a team environment with coding, being able to get a project as a whole and break it down into smaller parts to code, and gave me experience working with a client.

The Web Professionals Organization is proud to support professionals like Megan who are continuing to grow in their web development careers. Contact us today to find out how we can help you grow as a professional, no matter where in the world you live.