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Professional Cert in a World of Hurt?

Okay, so I didn't actually post while at the NOCA conference, which I intended to do.  It was a great meeting and I ended up spending so much time with colleagues outside of the scheduled meeting that I just didn't have time to blog (I assumed you like to read coherent posts).  Better late than never, I will provide some coverage and thoughts about the meeting in this and upcoming posts.  But, be patient as I’m already packing my third suitcase since NOCA and heading to the ASAE/The Center’s Great Ideas Conference early Sunday.

The NOCA business meeting shed a very positive light on the future of professional certification.  According to Wade Delk, NOCA Executive Director, from 2000 to 2005 membership in NOCA has increased, numbers of NCCA-accredited certification programs has increased, attendance at their conference has increased, and first time attendees at the conference have significantly increased.

And, while I do agree that the field of certification is growing, I don’t think the future is as rosy as portrayed at the meeting.  Frankly, I’m concerned that the traditional/current model of professional certification isn’t going to work in the near future.  What concerns me even more is that I didn’t hear any speaker or NOCA leader at the meeting express this concern.

Consider the projection that Millennials (sometimes called Generation Y – those currently entering the workplace) will engage in an average of six careers in their professional life.  Yes, that's CAREERS, not jobs.  Who knows how many jobs they'll have!   Now consider the traditional model of certification that often requires a formal degree and years of work experience (often 3-7) as an eligibility requirement.  For example, an association specialist with a bachelor's degree needs five years of association experience to be eligible to write ASAE’s CAE exam.  How many Millennials are going to stay in a field this many years?  Further, many professional certifications require a specific degree from designated accredited colleges.  For each career changes, are Millennials going to return to college for an additional degree?  I just don’t see it.

Here’s traditional certification:  Go to college for x years.  Get x years of work experience.  Take a test.  Get recognition for your accomplishment and/or be “allowed” to practice in a field.  (Yes, it’s oversimplified and this isn’t every field’s model.)

Now, contrast this with the IT field’s model of certification:  Take a comprehensive training program. Take a test.  Earn a certification.  Gain a new skill set and a resume-enhancer to position yourself better in the job market.

Which of these sounds like it’ll best meet the upcoming generation’s needs best?!  Which model is already successfully working for the Millennials?!  I’ll write more soon about my belief that training-based certification (or certificates) should and will have a prominent role in the future of credentialing.