Crane Operator Certifications must be Accredited per OSHA

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has been recognized as an approved accreditor of crane operator certification programs by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor. Under the new OSHA rule to address the safety of cranes and derricks used in construction, all crane operator certification bodies must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting entity. According to statistics issued by the Department of Labor, approximately 267,000 construction, crane rental, and crane certification establishments employing about 4.8 million workers will be affected.  More information here.

ANSI Personnel Certification Accreditation Cited in Department of Defense Directive

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has been named the sole approved accreditor of certification bodies by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for its Information Assurance (IA) Workforce Improvement Program.

ANSI’s designation as the accreditor for the program is stated in revisions to a manual issued under the authority of DoD Directive 8570.1, Information Assurance Training, Certification, and Workforce Management. Originally published in 2004 and revised in April 2010, the manual provides guidance and procedures for the training, certification, and management of the DoD workforce conducting IA functions in assigned duty positions.

According to the manual, IA personnel must receive and maintain certification for the highest level functions that they perform related to data management, use, processing, storage, and transmission. Bodies issuing this certification must be accredited to the International Standard ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024, General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons. The new revisions to the manual state that ANSI is the sole approved accreditor for these certification bodies.

More information here.

Can Certificates be Required?

I received a question yesterday about the ASTM E2659 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs and thought others might benefit from hearing the answer.

The question was related to the clause: (1) The certificate issuer shall not state or in any way imply that certificate holders are certified, licensed, accredited, or registered to engage in a specific occupation or profession.

The question asked if it was a violation of if if the certificate is required to practice a certain aspect of a profession?  The answer is no.  This clause prevents a certificate issuer from making misleading and confusing claims about the type of credential granted.  The certificate issuer should state that a certificate is issued for the attainment of a training program's intended learning.  They should not state the certificate holder is certified or licensed (or anything other than that a certificate was issued) since those credentials are not the outcome of a certificate program.  However, if attainment of a certificate is required by some entity for individuals to act in a certain role, that is a different issue and is fine.  An certificate issuer can state what what the role of the certificate is since these are truthful and not misleading statements.

As real life examples, two of organizations that recently had their certificate programs accredited by ANSI operate under this scenario. FDA’s “New Hire Investigator Training Certificate” is required to become an FDA Investigator and the US Army’s “CP 12 Safety Professional Certificate” is required to become a Safety Officer in the US Army.

Certificate Programs - Some Clarifications

At a recent meeting I ran into several of you who thanked me for this blog and commented on how informative and helpful it has been...and politely reminded me it's been quite a while since I've posted!  Thanks for the much needed nudge; I'll try to return to more regular postings.

I've been hearing a lot misinformation about certificate programs so I'll use this post to hopefully clear up a couple of things.

First, at the November ICE (formerly NOCA) conference, I heard several consultants / speakers indicate that certificate programs are a good option for organizations to implement when 1) the target market is too small to support a full scale certification program, or when 2) the organization doesn't have the resources to develop certification.  I respectfully and emphatically disagree.  These are both inappropriate reasons for an organization to develop a certificate program.  A certificate program is not a back-up option for certification.  The decision as to which credentialing program to develop should be based upon what the program is intended to accomplish, not the size of the market or resources of the organization.  The appropriate reason to develop a certificate program is that your target audience has a knowledge or skill gap that can be addressed through an outcomes-based training program.  Certification programs do not address knowledge or skill gaps; on the contrary, they recognize those who demonstrate they already have the knowledge and skills within the scope of certification.

Second, I continue to hear people mistakenly believing that ICE collaborated with the American National Standards Institute (ANS)I to develop the ICE assessment-based certificate standard.  ICE solely developed this standard.  I do understand why many are confused.  The ICE standard bears the label "ANSI/ICE 1100..." but it's important to understand that the labeling does not imply any collaboration or endorsement of the content of the standard.  There are thousands of standards that bear the ANSI prefix; when it is applied to a standard that means that the standard developer (in this case, ICE) followed the minimum procedures required by ANSI to have the standard designated as an American National Standard.  It is not an indication of collaboration or endorsement of the standard.

Regarding certificate programs, the ASTM E2659-09 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs is also an American National Standard.  ASTM chooses to not use the ANSI prefix since most of its standards, while used in the U.S., are also used globally.

ANSI's Accreditation Division extensively reviewed both the ICE standard for assessment-based certificates and the ASTM certificate program standard and selected the ASTM standard for use in its accreditation system.  More information on that decision and selection process can be found here.

This past summer ANSI began a pilot test of its certificate program accreditation.  Applications were due in August, and ANSI assessors reviewed the applications and supporting documentation and then conducted site visits this fall and winter.  The ANSI Accreditation Committee recently met, and this week ANSI will announce its first class of accredited certificate programs.  I'll post more about that as soon as the announcements are made.

Microsoft Achieves ANSI 17024 Accreditation

Microsoft recently received accreditation for conformance to the international standard ISO/IEC 17024 General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons by the American National Standards Institute for two of its IT certification programs.  The blog world is buzzing with the news since these are the first product-specific IT certifications accredited to the international standard and ANSI.  Lots of individual IT bloggers responded on their own blogs and the buzz is positive, with agreement that the third-party "stamp of approval" is a really good thing for both Microsoft and the individuals certified.

See the Microsoft blog announcement here.

Certificate Program or Certification?

I spent last week in DC training ANSI Certificate Accreditation Program assessors and accreditation committee members on application of the ASTM E2659-09 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs.   After that 2 1/2 day intensive training, we then conducted a 3 hour training webconference for the organizations that have been accepted into the pilot being conducted this summer.  It was an exhausting but exhilarating week!  The talent convened to implement this program is incredible (a press release will be issued soon outlining the individuals and organizations involved). 

We had so many rich discussions that I can't possibly summarize them all here, but I will try to highlight some of the more important points.  A critical element (in fact the foundation of the training) was in ensuring everyone was clear on the distinction between certification programs and certificate programs.  The American National Standard, of course, provides the needed clarification.  Here's the table I often use to show the distinctions:


So, one of the key distinctions is that in certification, you may verify education/training received elsewhere (as an eligibility requirement), but you are not providing required training; you are assessing current knowledge and/or skill.  In a certificate program, in contrast, you ARE providing the required training/education and then assessing for attainment of the intended learning outcomes of that training/education.  So, the focus of certification is on the verifying past education and experiences and assessing current knowledge and skill.  In certificate programs, the focus is on providing the needed learning and evaluating attainment of it.

Also important, unlike certification (and more like a degree program), a certificate program does not have ongoing requirements and therefore cannot be revoked.  Once you receive a certificate, it's yours forever; there are no continuing education or re-examination requirements to maintain it.  However, certificate issuers should assign a term of validity to the certificates in order to inform stakeholders of the currency and relevancy of any given certificate.   (Note, that if it is determined that the content of the certificate is unchanging, then the term may be indefinite.)  Consider, as an example the American Heart Association CPR certificate which has a term of validity of 2 years.  There are no ongoing requirements to "maintain" the certificate, and it is never officially revoked.  But if you want or need a valid certificate,  you need to successfully accomplish the training/assessment again.

I'll cover designations more thoroughly another time, but the key point here is that both certification and certificate programs can issue designations and associated acronyms.  It is important, however, that certificate issuers that confer them do not state or imply the individuals are certified or licensed.  Programs that make this implication will not be in conformance with the standard/accreditation requirements.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have specific questions about the certificate program standard.

ANSI Press Release

The official ANSI press release regarding the selection of the ASTM International Standard Practice for Certificate Programs has been posted to its website.

As the technical lead on the ASTM standard, I've been asked to lead the training of the ANSI Certificate Accreditation Program (ANSI-CAP) Accreditation Committee and assessors, which of course I enthusiastically agreed to.  This is such an exciting and needed program, and I very much look forward to helping ANSI in its implementation.

Certificate Programs and Designations

I've promised that I'd post some educational posts about the ANSI/ASTM E2659-2009 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs.  I thought I'd start with the most controversial topic, designations.  The ASTM standard allows the granting of designations with appropriate safeguards.  In contrast, the NOCA standard (ANSI/NOCA 1100 Standard for Assessment-Based Certificate Program) fully restricts the granting of designations and associated acronyms by certificate issuers. 

In drafting the ASTM standard, we recognized early on that the issue of granting designations was a problematic area since certificate issuers currently do grant the use of designations that could easily be confused with those of certifying agencies. The question became: should designations be completely restricted or was there a way to ensure only accurate and responsible use?  We ultimately determined that the latter approach was the appropriate path; following is the rationale.

Fully restricting certificate issuers from granting designation use seemed at first to be a reasonable path and was the original position considered.  However, we could not find sufficient justification for this restriction.  In our research we found that organizations grant designation acronyms for a variety of program types.  Certifying and licensing boards grant designations to certificants and licensees, respectively. Professional societies grant designations for certain categories of membership and types of honorees, such as Fellows and Diplomats.  Our brief online searches for “membership designation” and “fellow designation” alone yielded page after page of existing examples (hundreds, if not thousands), including many from reputable, well-established societies.  In addition, we found that companies use designations and associated acronyms to designate certain levels of employment.  And, organizations have long been conferring designations and associated acronyms for certificate programs; this is not a newly introduced concept.   As one prominent example, for the Institute for Organization Management (U.S. Chamber of Commerce), program graduates are issued the designation, “IOM.”

It became very clear that there is a long history of designations being used by a myriad of organizations for a multitude of reasons, and that designations were not a clear determinant of certified or licensed status, as has been asserted by NOCA representatives.   Given this and the recognized market value of a designation, we felt it inappropriate for a standard to restrict the competitiveness of certificate programs. However, it was clear that there needed to be measures taken to ensure appropriate use.
The problem occurs when certificate issuers use designation acronyms that state and/or imply an individual is certified or otherwise credentialed; this could clearly confuse the public so this is where the Standard Practice for Certificate Program focuses.  It is important to note that the standard does not encourage the use of designation acronyms, but they are allowed only under certain conditions that ensure differentiation from certification and licensure.  The standard's Section 7.1.2 addresses this:  

“A certificate issuer may grant a designation or designation acronym or both to certificate holders only under the condition that the designation and/or designation acronym granted shall not include the words “certified,” “certificated,” “licensed,” “registered,” or “accredited” or in any other way imply such statuses.”

Section further ensures accurate and responsible uses of designation acronyms:

“The certificate issuer shall represent the certificate program and its purpose, scope, and intended learning outcomes in an accurate and responsible way.
(1) The certificate issuer shall not state or in any way imply that certificate holders are certified, licensed, accredited, or registered to engage in a specific occupation or profession.”

Section 5.1.2 provides even more assurance to the public by requiring that the issuer is an appropriate and qualified issuer of the certificate (so that a non-medical society would not issue a medical certificate, for example).

“The certificate issuer shall be an appropriate and qualified issuer of the certificate.”

Further, in our conversations with the existing certificate issuer community, we found that several certificate issuers that currently issue a designation acronym in the “Certified XYZ” format said while they would likely be unwilling to stop using a designation, they would likely be willing to change it to a format that would conform to the standard.  We concluded, then, that current certificate issuers would likely ignore a standard (since it is voluntary) that restricts the use of any designation (like NOCA's).  A restriction stance, then, would simply result in a continuation of current certificate issuers in granting designations that state and/or imply certified status.  In contrast, the ASTM standard stance on designations would actually assist in ridding the marketplace of the confusing certificate designations that imply certification. 

Thus, we have found that allowing the use of designation acronyms with the appropriate safeguards increases the likelihood of broad adoption of the standard while at the same time prevents the use of those designations that would be confusing to the public and other stakeholders.  This is consistent with all aims of the standard.

ANSI Selects ASTM Standard for Certificate Program Accreditation

It's official.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has selected the ANSI/ASTM E2659-09 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs to use as the foundation for its accreditation program for certificate programs. 

ANSI conducted a thorough analysis before making their determination.  Speaking for ASTM, we developed a substantial backgrounder to accompany our presentation to the Accreditation Committee in February, including a side-by-side comparison of the ASTM International and NOCA standards, organizations, and standards development experience and capacity.  Then, we submitted a 22 page response to the Committee's questions (linked to their selection criteria) detailing, among other things, the degree to which the standard will increase training and education program overall quality, how the standard is evidence-based, aligned with education and training industry best practices, and was developed with broad participation by appropriate stakeholders.  There's no question the Accreditation Committee had significant information on which to base their decision.

Now that the standard has been selected, things will be moving quickly.  Here's where ANSI is on the program:

  • the accreditation committee is already in place (they made the standard determination),
  • assessors have been selected through an application process, nominating committe review and recommendation, phone interviews, and final approval by the accreditation committee,
  • the call for pilot testers will soon be issued,
  • the pilot tester selection criteria have been established and a selection committee is being appointed to review applications and recommend pilot testers to the accreditation committee, and
  • training has been scheduled for the accreditation committee, assessors and pilot testers.

As always, I'll post here as more updates are available, including a link to the official press release which should be released today or tomorrow.

Standard Practice for Certificate Programs Released!

It's been a long time in coming but I'm finally thrilled to announce that the new American National Standard for certificate programs has just been released by ASTM International.  The official announcement can be found here and the standard can be purchased here.  This standard will provide much-needed guidance to certificate issuers on how to develop a quality certificate program and to consumers on how to identify such a program. In addition, the standard will help organizations make informed judgments about whether to develop a certification or certificate program, and should they choose to develop a certificate program, provide guidance on how to do so.

I'll be following up with educational posts about the standard soon. In the mean time, if you have any questions about the standard or its use, feel free to contact me at 317-810-0013 or [email protected]