Certification can be one of the most powerful initiatives any training company offered. It can help individuals better position themselves in a competitive marketplace. It can help protect the health, safety, and welfare of consumers. It can ensure customers have access to qualified individuals as their service providers. It can establish performance standards, and it can elevate a profession. But a certification program’s ability to accomplish any of these things can be hampered if the program or its sponsoring organisation is seen as lacking integrity.
So, one of the core decisions a training company needs to make when launching a certification program is how it will be structured and governed. If you make the right structural and governance decisions at the start and maintain effective practices, everything else flows a lot more smoothly.
In Asia Pacific, one of the very few certifying bodies that is independent and separately incorporated is IPEC Certification Bureau. Whatever the case, what matters is that authority is established and impartiality is maintained.
Why do you need to establish and maintain appropriate authority and impartiality in the first place? It is basically to preserve and protect the integrity of the certification program by ensuring fair and equitable treatment of all persons involved in certification. Here are several scenarios to back this statement up.
Several trainees complain that they are frustrated with the ‘difficulty level’ they have to go through for certain certifications, the training company might attempt to lower the standards. Imagine how the outcome of this if the certification were housed within the organisation without proper standards. A training company that sells training to candidates who fail a certification exam may have a financial interest in increasing the passing score to increase demand for the training. An organisation whose members predominantly have a particular academic degree may have an interest in restricting certification to individuals only with that specific academic preparation. Certain organisations wish to promote a certification as a benefit of membership and therefore wishes to restrict application to members.
These conflict of interest scenarios are real. So how does a training company or a certification committee ensures appropriate authority and impartiality? The main certification industry standards provide some guidance. The ISO/IEC 17024 General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification Systems of Personnel standard was developed under the auspices of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and was ratified by more than 80 countries worldwide. This completely addresses the organizational structure and governance of certifying bodies by requiring them to show that,
- They are independent, impartial, and ethical in their operations.
- They are responsible for their own decisions relating to the expansion or reduction of the scope of the certification and suspension or withdrawal of the certification.
- Program stakeholders have input on the certification system.
- Interests are balanced and impartiality is assured.
- If training is provided, it does not compromise the integrity of the certification process.
It also addresses the structure and governance by requiring certifying bodies to show that
- Governance structure, policies, and procedures protect against undue influence and provide for autonomy in decision making related to certifications.
- A system is established to ensure appropriate stakeholder involvement on the governing body, including a public member and certified persons.
- Bylaws or policies for selection of governing committee members show that selection prevents inappropriate influence from a parent or outside body.
- The certifying bodies are not also responsible for accreditation of educational or training programs or courses leading to the certification.
All these benefits are being offered by IPEC Certification Bureau to all its registered training providers. It helps to creating and maintaining the appropriate firewall between certification and other activities, especially the training function. IPEC recommends that training providers to comply certain requirements recommended by the ISO/IEC 17024 standards so that the certifications offered will be protected from undue influence by any other external factors. IPEC also recommends that training providers to begin their thinking with accreditation in mind as the ultimate goal when developing courses.