Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alphabet soup of certification

'SIMA continues to represent the leading professional standard in snow, and we have some exciting new announcements coming this fall.'

By Martin Tirado, CAE
Does this scenario sound familiar? I recently received a business card from a person who had five acronyms after his name, none of which I recognized. These ABCs of of designations may look impressive on a business card, but it begs the question as to whether they are a testament to a person's expertise in a field. How hard (or easy) is it to obtain them? And, most importantly, do they matter to consumers or the public? There generally are four types of designations:

  • Licensure is typically administered through government entities and are legal mandates designed to ensure that licensees have the minimal degree of competency in their field. Individuals usually have to meet eligibility requirements, pass an assessment test, and obtain ongoing requirements like education and renewal fees. (Example: RN/Registered Nurse)
  • Certification is a voluntary process through which an organization grants verification to an individual after confirming the applicant has met the eligibility requirements and passed an assessment. (Example: CSP/Certified Snow Professional)
  • Certificate programs are designed to educate or train individuals to achieve specific outcomes. A certificate is usually given after successful completion of the program, which may include an evaluation or assessment of the learner's achievement. Usually there are no designations or acronyms assigned and there are no ongoing requirements to maintain. (Example: Certificate in Project Management)
  • Accreditation recognizes an organization, system or program - not an individual. It also is voluntary and has ongoing requirements. (Example: Universities and hospitals are often accredited by a third-party entity)
Snow designations
Of these, the most common in the snow and green industries are certification programs. According to the book "Certification Simplified," by certification expert Mickie S. Rops, CAE, a certification program must:
  • Have ongoing requirements (called recertification or renewal) and a system for revoking when requirements are not met
  • Not have an integrated learning component offered and/or required by the certifying body
If a certification program does not meet these criteria, it is not a true certification program. In the snow & ice industry, for professionals such as SIMA members who serve the private industry, only one certification program exists: the CSP - Certified Snow Professional.

Certification done right
Certification programs become more complex because there are standards that certifying bodies should model. Organizations like ANSI (American National Standards Institute) administer accreditation programs for certification agencies. SIMA is focused on continuous improvement, and we are now modeling the CSP program to align more closely with these best practices.

We constantly invest time and resources in improvements through updated testing procedures, fair and transparent governance and policy changes. More importantly, we are working strategically to position CSP at the forefront of our outreach efforts. The insurance industry continues to see the value in the CSP, and our Outreach Committee is engaged in sharing the value of SIMA membership and certification to this audience.

Done right, certifications need thoughtful analysis of market conditions, market need, management, structure an oversight. Having a well-organized and crafted professional certification program is much more difficult that it may appear. SIMA continues to represent the leading professional standard in snow, and we have some exciting new announcements coming soon. Programs done right are worthy of adding to your professional resume. Contact SIMA to learn how to take the next step in your snow & ice management career.

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