Update on ASTM Standard for Certificate Programs

Just a few updates on the standard for certificate programs. 

The first ballot by ASTM International on the standard for certificate programs passed!  That doesn't mean it was finalized; it means that the standard draft proceeds in development.  After the ballot closed, we worked on incorporating the feedback provided into the draft.  Thank you so much to the many of you who provided helpful feedback to make the standard even better, either as a member of the ASTM subcommittee or as an interested party.  This does bring me to something I wanted to clarify:  you do NOT need to be a member of ASTM to view and comment on the draft!!!  All you need to do is e-mail me or Rick Lake of ASTM and ask for a copy.  We welcome and encourage feedback from everyone who is impacted in any way by the standard.  As a member you can participate formally in the voting process, but all feedback submitted (from members and non-members alike) is considered in the draft revisions.  By the way, I'm thrilled to say that our interested party list has grown exponentially over the past month!!  The word is really getting out about this standard, and we're receiving much input and support, especially from the training community.   

A new and updated draft of the ASTM International standard for certificate programs is out to ballot through October 26th.  If you would like to view the current (and I encourage you to do so!!), e-mail me and I'll have the draft sent to you.

As chair of the task group charged with considering feedback and revising the standard accordingly, let me say that I am particularly interested in constructive feedback on the standard.  While it may be nice to hear kudos, I want to hear what are the potential problems with the standard.  I want to hear from those who will play devil's advocate and ask, "well, what about this...?"  or "what happens when...?"  If that describes you, please do contact me!  Only with this type of constructive criticism will this standard be the best possible. 


Why before How

I got a disturbing, but unfortunately not unusual, call last week.  An association president who read Considering Certification? Your Guide to Making the Decision called expressing the realization and concern that his organization has been focusing all their efforts on HOW to develop a certification but hadn't really thoroughly considered WHY!!! 

This happens all too often, in my opinion. Boards assume certification is wanted, needed and/or valued.  Boards assume certification will do great things for their industry or profession.  Boards assume they will make big revenue on certification.  ALL RISKY ASSUMPTIONS.  Hopefully I'll be able to help the board more thoroughly consider IF certification is a path they should pursue.  Now, someone tell me why the consultant they've been working with for months hasn't raised this "minor" question?   In fairness, the individual was hired to guide creation of a program, not to assess the feasibility for developing a program.  This begs the question, however: Isn't it the job of a consultant to ask the questions that our clients don't know to ask?

The WHY should always precede the HOW.


Designations for Certificates?

Okay, so here's hot issue number two regarding the standard for certificate programs:

Should certificate holders be issued a designation and associated acronym? 

For certification, certificants are typically granted use of a designation (e.g., Certified Association Executive) and that designation's acroynm (e.g., CAE).  Should certificate holders?

As I see it, there are 3 possible answers:  The obvious "yes" and "no" and then the more complicated third option which would allow designations and associated acroynms for certificate programs only under certain conditions, such as 1) that the organization does not state or in any way imply that the certificate holder is certified, licensed, registered, accredited, etc. and 2) that a standardized designation and associated acronym that distinguishes it as a certificate program is used (i.e., "Certificate Holder in XYZ" or "CH-XYZ"). 

NOCA's current standard draft says no designation or associated acronym. ASTM's current standard draft includes the 3rd option.

As a point of clarification, the resulting standard(s) will be voluntary so there is no way to control the many certificate programs out there that issue designations using the word "certified."  But, if a standard becomes the basis of an accreditation program for certificate programs, it would mean that all accredited programs would either 1) not be able to issue a designation (under NOCA's current draft) or 2) use only the specified standardized designation format for their certificate holders (under ASTM's current draft). 

I'm convinced "yes" is not appropriate as that further blurs the ability for users to distingish between certification and certificate programs, but I see both pros and cons of the last two options.  What do you think?


Certificate Programs: Renewable?

A common question is "Can certificates be renewable?"

The ASTM E2659 standard upon which the ANAB accreditation is based does not allow for an issued certificate to be renewable.  The rationale is that this is a key feature distinguishing certificate programs from certification. 

According to both ISO 17024  and NCCA standards for certification programs, a certifying agency must have renewal (also known as recertification) requirements as an element of their certification scheme.  Because of this, certifying bodies must have ongoing communication with and ongoing tracking of their certificant populations.

In contrast, certificate programs usually issue a certificate similar to a college diploma (there are exceptions).  The certificate issued indicates that certain criteria were met up to that given point in time; however, the certificate issuer does not monitor the certificate holders beyond certificate issuance.  Should they?  Do colleges have ongoing requirements for their graduates?  Do training providers have ongoing requirements for their learners?

At first glance, you may ask why shouldn't certificate issuers be allowed to have renewal requirements if they want?  To me, the problem is that it makes certificate programs too much like certification.   Right now the two are often confused and blended.  We need to distinguish between them, and I believe this is one area that can do that.


Not a Good Reason to Certify

Every once in a while, I encounter association executives who’ve identified certification as a strategy to turn around their decreasing conference attendance.  Their logic is that a certification program with mandated continuing education will encourage individuals to go to the conferences to get that education.  BAD idea.   Remember that certification is voluntary.  Here’s a better idea: improve your conferences!


Certification Gets Social!

Here's a group who's documenting their creation of an industry certification program through a blog.  This one's pretty basic, but the possibilities are endless.  What a great way to be transparent (and informative) with members of a profession about the development process...and I could see how there would be easy opportunities for engaging and seeking input along the way. 

I've actually now found 6 blogs sponsored by certifying agencies (plus many more by candidates/certificants).  I've also found several social networking groups of certified individuals and/or applicants...and several videos on YouTube.  Certifying agencies are finally starting to get social!   I'll point you to many of these in upcoming posts.  Blogs, videos, and online communities are outstanding marketing opportunities for you; don't discount them!