I just concluded a week-long training to become qualified as an assessor for ANSI's Personnel Certification Accreditation under the ISO/IEC 17024:2003 general requirements for bodies operating certification of persons. How easily that phrase just came without having to reflect upon it is some indication of how thorough and intensive the training (and of course a concluding assessment) was!
For those not familiar with the program, let me summarize by saying that 17024 is an internationally-adopted (through ISO) and American-adopted (through ANSI/ASTM) voluntary standard for organizations operating programs that certify individuals (not products or organizations).
Let me just say that if all certifying agencies sought to achieve the requirements set out in 17024, the certification industry would be much stronger for it! The requirements are achievable, but in my opinion most organizations will need to make moderate to significant enhancements to their current systems in order to fully conform. Now the good news is that it is a developmental process. The applicant submits documentation and has a site visit to assess conformity to the 17024 requirements. Then, the organization works to address and resolve any nonconformities. In other words, just because a nonconformity is found, that doesn't mean you won't be able to achieve accreditation. Rather, you just won't be able to achieve accreditation until the nonconformity is resolved. A great benefit, of course, to applicants is the third-party review of their programs which identifies nonconformities and other suggested areas for improvement and guidance (not consultation) to resolve them.
External objective review is never a bad thing. I hope organizations in the industry consider this an opportunity to strengthen their organizations/programs and opt to apply for accreditation, or at least to strive to meet the quality standards identified. The standards can be purchased from ANSI's website www.ansi.org (search for 17024).