Work hours, pay rates, comp time, and the value of certifications—these are some of the issues that might benefit from the kind of industry-wide standards that unions are said to provide. Bill Detwiler’s recent article, “IT pros take a cautious approach to unions,” examined the apprehension that some IT workers have about the idea of an IT union. According to these techs, unions are outdated and could stall the dynamic IT industry. As an alternative to unionization, many TechRepublic members suggest that an IT guild could serve as a collective voice and framework for workers, without the harmful side effects of an IT union. In this article, we’ll examine why some professionals propose establishing an IT guild.

About guilds
Guilds began when skilled medieval craftsmen collaborated to exchange skills and teach young newcomers the way of the industry. According to IT Manager GeorgeLaCourse, the guild became increasingly important just before the Industrial Revolution, when craftsmen came together “to protect themselves from exploitation by the local robber barons and to ensure a high degree of training and professional conduct by its members.”

Enhancing experience and professionalism
Certifications are one way for employees to market their worth to employers. However, without experience to back up the paper certifications, many believe that they only illustrate how well someone performed on an exam. Member dwl-new jersey believes that guilds are a great way to standardize and define the levels or expertise of a worker’s skills.

“In the United States,” dwl-new jersey writes, “what we need is an organization that promotes excellence by defining levels of knowledge attainment (something like the apprentice, journeymen, or master designations used in [traditional] guilds), but applicable to the IT field.”

Instead of relying wholly on certification exams, entry-level techies could look to a guild for quality mentoring and apprenticeship. As they gained experience over time, newbies would ascend the ranks of the guild and eventually assume the role of instructor or “journeyman.”

In eap’s opinion, a guild system would also instill a professionalism that is often missing in the field. “Overall, I think it would help to stabilize and ‘professionalize’ our industry. There are more than a few people I have worked with over the years who would have benefited immensely by working under such a system.”

Great networking
A guild would not only enhance the experience section of newcomers’ resumes, but it would also offer great networking possibilities. Employers could look to a guild for well-qualified, experienced, and professional candidates. While the employers would benefit by having a collective association to hire from, job seekers would cut out a lot of the time-consuming legwork in tracking down opportunities. Technical Instructor Chris Orr writes:
“The advantage here would be a way for [applicants] to get their foot in the door and get their careers started much faster than if they had to follow more traditional routes.”

Networking isn’t only about finding jobs. It’s also a chance to build relationships with people who share similar professional interests and concerns. Jeffrey Seifert, a systems support engineer, believes that guilds would be a great facilitator of this kind of interaction.

“Guilds also provide a source of support, advice, and assistance for fellow members as well as…a way to keep abreast of their field,” Seifert writes.

What about resources?
Considering the growing number of people working in the IT field, it would take a significant amount of work to organize and maintain a guild. Member dwl-new jersey belongs to an organization of motorcyclists that is maintained mostly by volunteers. However, with the long hours so many IT workers face, who has time to run a guild organization?
Would you join an IT guild? Do you think the industry would benefit from such an organization? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.