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Microsoft Corp. Monday unveiled what it called a new generation of certifications for partners and IT executives, more reflective of the skills required.

The new certification map is three-tiered—Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, Microsoft Certified IT Professional or Professional Developer, and Microsoft Certified Architect—intended to provide a more accurate demonstration of an individual’s skills and a more streamlined training process.

The new titles and certifications better reflect the more specialized skills required of the technology, said Lutz Ziob, general manager for Microsoft Learning, in a prepared statement. Microsoft Learning administers the Redmond, Wash., software maker’s certification programs.

Current certifications will continue, but new software will require certification under the new system. The first credentials will be awarded in early 2006 for partners and IT personnel working with Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005, slated to launch Nov. 7, Microsoft said.

Two exceptions, the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) certifications, will continue to be recognized, said a company spokesperson.

For partners, the certifications are now linked to partner competencies, eliminating the formerly redundant system of dueling benchmarks.

Pointer Click here to read about the Microsoft Front Runner program, which allows VARs to work with Microsoft applications prior to launch.

The new certifications offer a more flexible curriculum designed to enhance technical knowledge and skills and a certification framework intended to help individuals demonstrate skills and help managers verify skills, the company said. The more targeted credentials can be achieved with fewer exams, making it more cost-effective for individuals and organizations to validate specific sets of skills.

The certification process begins with a free individual online assessment to determine a candidate’s areas of strength and weakness, which results in a customized learning plan that directs candidates to specific resources. Candidates may then choose the learning resources that best reflect their needs and learning style.

“One of the key things Microsoft has done is to break certification into two parts, understanding the technology and performing specific jobs,” said Thom Griffin, vice president of technical services for QuickStart Intelligence Inc., in the Microsoft announcement. “Our enterprise customers will appreciate the job role emphasis because it will help them assess and better evaluate their staff’s skills. And with fewer exams and reduced cost, the new program provides our customers with an easy way to validate the skills necessary to quickly adopt new technologies as they become available.”